Ballots are already arriving in Arlington and Marysville mailboxes for the Aug. 6 primary election, and five local men are running for the same seat — Snohomish County Council District 1. Gary Wright, Bill Blake, Carsten Mullin, Ken Klein and Sean Olson talked about what each of them hopes to work on if elected and what sets him apart from the others.
“I believe the biggest issue facing Snohomish County is the economy and jobs,” said Wright, of Marysville. “There are probably different opinions on how we get there and how we enhance opportunities for new companies and businesses to grow, but that is the biggest issue.”
Wright noted that fostering business growth requires giving attention to other aspects of the county.
“There are other things that contribute to the economy,” he said. “Obviously transportation plays a part, and zoning and planning play a part. I think that collaboration with all of the different governmental entities contributes toward that development.”
His urge to encourage collaboration comes from experience being involved in government.
“I have been very involved in government in every level — city level, county level, state level and federal level,” he said. “I am still trying to influence and effect regulations, laws and ordinances that have to do with real estate and property rights.”
Wright is owner of Gary Wright Realty in Marysville.
“I have been Councilman John Koster’s real estate contact, as well as the contact for both Democrat and Republican state senators and representatives. I am involved in the process and have been for a long time. I think my experience and leadership will be an asset to the council. I have been the president of large organizations, including the State Association of Realtors, and vice president of the National Association of Realtors, which has 1 million members. I’m a member of the Snohomish County Economic Development Task Force, as a business representative to address issues that affect economic development. It is one of my passions and an issue that I’m willing to put a lot time into.”
Blake, of Arlington, works for the city of Arlington and believes in focusing on economic growth and the protection of natural resources, fostering a sustainable Snohomish County.
“One important piece of the puzzle that we need to work on is the Council’s Comprehensive Plan,” Blake said. “It is supporting the necessary housing for all ages and economic classes, allowing for job growth with family wage jobs, and supporting the renaissance of natural resources industries, such as timber and agriculture.”
Blake sees natural resources industries as a great way to keep money in local communities and schools, and create jobs.
“In agriculture you have the full circle,” he said. “You grow it, you harvest it, you process it and you make your added value product. Those we use in our schools, for our school nutrition program. The products made here are sold here too, growing the retail sales tax in town and keeping those jobs local. There is a full-circle sustainable aspect to that.”
Blake has been working for the city of Arlington for more than a decade and sees his experience as an asset that will help him as a County Council member.
“I have 13 years experience at the city — operating government, being in the trenches, managing the permit center and customer services, making sure everyone is treated the same and helping them accomplish their goals,” Blake said. “We’ve helped shepherd them through the permitting and regulatory process and get them through. What sets me apart from other candidates is that when it comes to an elected person making a decision on an issue, they don’t always know what it takes to get to there. Because I have been in charge of that process, I’m going to be able to ask those questions and make sure it fits with what our constituents are looking for. And with a focusing on sustainability we can create jobs and boost the economy while protecting our resources. Natural resources is an economic engine when managed in a sustainable manner.”
Mullin, a current Snohomish County employee and Arlington resident, wants to focus on collaboration and communication between the community and government.
“The biggest issue, honestly, is communication,” Mullin said. “Getting community leaders to work together and communicate with the government is important. I think it will solve a lot of Snohomish County’s problems.”
Mullin would like to see the Council collaborating with the County Executive and other county departments.
“I think if the County Council worked together with the Executive and also communicated with department heads, there will be a lot fewer problems, and the solutions to the problems we do face will come a lot quicker.”
Mullin sees his experience as a county employee as being important to understanding the role of a Council member.
“The biggest thing that sets me apart is the experience that I have with the county,” he said. “I’ve worked there for six years in the information services department. In that time, we faced major layoffs and I was realizing how tough that was. I was also part of the contract negotiations with our union, AFSCME Council No. 2 — Local 1811CA, and the information services department. I felt it went really well and it was a positive experience.”
“I think the most important issue is economic growth,” said Klein, an Arlington resident. “We need more jobs here in the area, in the north especially. We are too much of a bedroom community for King County. We are doing a good job of creating jobs so far. We have a good plan for an industrial center in the south Arlington, north Marysville area. That will bring in 10,000-20,000 manufacturing jobs. That is what our focus needs to be, and helping that along with collaborative spirit.”
Klein sees his experience as an Arlington City Council member as being essential to understanding the County Council position.
“I’m the only one who has been elected to something,” he said. “I’ve worked in executive management in a number of industries, including food service, property management and construction. I can see what kind of impact government can have on multiple industries. Any business is good business, and if people are focused on only one industry, those different industries get left in the weeds. I want to make sure we create an environment in the county where all businesses can thrive.”
“I’d really like to see more transparency in local governments,” said Olson, a city of Marysville employee. “Not just local but all governments. One of the things I’ve noticed while looking through our budgets is that all of our tax money goes into the general fund, and is then dispersed to individual departments from there. But we don’t see what it is being spent on and how it’s being spent.”
Olson, who has lived in Snohomish County all of his life, is hoping to encourage more collaboration between individual communities and the county.
“I would like to accomplish the task of making our government more transparent through a focus on community involvement,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you do — if no one is paying attention, no one is going to care.”
This is Olson’s first time running for local government, but he hopes that his dedication to local communities will set him apart. He has been working for the city of Marysville for nine years, and started a family in the community where he grew up.
“I’ve never run for anything before,” he said. “I’m familiar with how the system works, and one of the things I would like to see change is exactly that — how the system works.”
A candidate forum for Snohomish County Council District 1 is set for July 31 at Leifer Manor, 12511 State Ave. in Marysville, at 6:30 p.m.