A grateful community bids farewell to Mayor Earling

More than 100 friends, colleagues, elected officials and citizens packed the Edmonds Center for the Arts lobby on Thursday evening to say goodbye and thank you to two-term Mayor Dave Earling.

Earling was elected mayor in 2011, capping off a work life that took him from teaching music at Shoreline Community College (he remains an accomplished brass player) to 25 years as broker, manager and owner of Edmonds Realty to his 1992 election to the Edmonds City Council, where he served three terms. As mayor, Earling oversaw the community’s transition from what some called “Deadmonds” to today’s vibrant arts-focused city of 42,000 with its diverse collection of businesses, restaurants, galleries, parks, beaches and more, making it a prime regional daytime destination. (Read more in My Edmonds News’ earlier article here.

The evening’s program was emceed by ECA Executive Director Joe McIalwain, who welcomed attendees. The first speaker was Bob Drewel, former Snohomish County Executive, Everett Community College president and Executive Director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, who is Earling’s long-time friend and colleague.

“When you get a chance to talk about someone you admire for so many reasons, you’d better well jump at it,” he began. “Dave and I have gone to battle on several issues. We’ve served together on the Puget Sound Regional Council. I know a lot of people on a lot of boards, but I don’t know a lot of people who show up on a lot of boards. Dave shows up, he gets things done, he solves problems.  Dave is a team player and one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. He’s not an ‘aw shucks’ kind of guy – he just does his job. He has substance, he’s thorough. I’ve never done anything with Dave where I didn’t know I could take his answer to the bank, deposit it and draw against it.

“He’s had opportunities to do other things, but he’s always turned them down to continue serving Edmonds,” Drewel continued. “He’s taken care of the home front better than any elected official I’ve ever worked with.  I love Dave, and will love him for a long time.”

Next to the podium was former ECA Board Director Steve Shelton, who praised Earling for his key role in making the ECA a reality.

“Dave has his handprints all over this place,” said Shelton. “The 2001 interlocal agreement that created the ECA was signed by Dave on behalf of Edmonds when he was acting as mayor pro-tem (for then-mayor Gary Haakenson).”

Shelton went on to share stories of his friendship with Earling over the years.

“As Bob Drewel pointed out, Dave is really smart – and he has some great sayings,” continued Shelton. “Sayings like ‘it’s always sunny and 82 degrees in Edmonds,’ and ‘leave it better than when you arrived.’  He’s leaving Edmonds better than it was when he arrived. Thank you, my friend.”

Returning to the podium, McIalwain ticked off a laundry list summarizing Earling’s history and accomplishments, from his and wife Susan’s 1960s arrival in the Puget Sound area, when he began teaching music at Shoreline Community College, and the couple’s subsequent move to Edmonds, where they have resided for the past 41 years. He went on to note Earling’s early involvement in civic activities from the Cascade Symphony Orchestra to the Washington Conservation Voters, to his appointment by Gov. Christine Grégoire to a six-year term on the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board.

McIalwain noted that following Earling’s 2011 election as mayor, he worked tirelessly on several fronts, including efforts to purchase and transform Civic Park into a first-class downtown public space; his support for the arts leading to Edmonds’ first-ever Arts Summit in 2013 and the subsequent honor of Edmonds being named the state’s first certified Creative District; his success in drawing outside funding to help upgrade aging infrastructure, and his skillful oversight of the city’s financial health, which recently resulted in Edmonds receiving the coveted AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s.

Next to the podium was Edmonds Municipal Judge Linda Coburn, who presented Earling with a vest inscribed with the motto of the court: “Providing the community access to justice with respect and integrity.” She was followed by Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty, who on behalf of all city department directors gave Earling a framed print of Main Street Summertime by artist Ken Duffin. The inscription reads: “In appreciation of Mayor Dave Earling for his accomplishments and friendship, and for having left Edmonds better off than when he started…it’ll always be sunny and 82 in Edmonds.”

It was then Earling’s turn to take the podium.

“I can only say thank you, thank you, thank you,” he began. “I care a great deal about this city, but it’s not just me – it’s the staff, particularly the directors. My speech to the directors when I hired them was simple: You have a department, you have a budget, you run it and come to me if there’s a problem” — adding with a laugh – “and they never stopped coming to my door.”

Earling noted that one of his big interests has been developing Edmonds’ reputation in the region, including developing the city as a daytime destination.

Referring to his oft-repeated refrain that it’s always sunny and 82 degrees in Edmonds, he explained that this is more than just a reference to weather – it’s attitude.  “You need an optimistic spin to keep the city moving forward,” he said.  “It really helps when it’s always sunny and 82 degrees in your mind.”

Summing up his remarks, Earling again thanked the 240-some dedicated city staff members.

“It’s been wonderful to serve as mayor,” he said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to also serve on boards and commissions including Community Transit, Sound Transit, and a host of others to help ensure our city’s role as an important player in the region.

He also offered special thanks to his family, noting that his son John and wife Susan were in attendance. He then invited Susan to stand with him to be recognized, noting that the couple will celebrate 50 years of marriage on Dec. 27.

“Thanks for the good times, and thanks for a great eight years,” Earling told the crowd.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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