Former Mukilteo mayor seeks same post in EverettSullivan aims to replace Stephanson, city’s longest running mayor
Editor's note: Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson announced Feb. 1 that he will not seek re-election. The story below – originally published prior to his announcement – has been updated to reflect this news and includes a statement he released Feb. 1. Much of the story, however, remains the same as the original story published Feb. 1 in the Mukilteo Beacon's print edition, the press deadline for which was Jan. 31.
Twenty years after completing two terms as Mukilteo’s mayor, Brian Sullivan says he’s ready to do it again – only this time in Everett.
Last week, Sullivan announced plans to challenge that city’s longest running mayor, Ray Stephanson, who was first elected in 2003. The official filing period for the November election is in May.
Earlier in January, Stephanson announced his intention to run for a fourth term at the helm of Snohomish County’s largest city. On Feb. 1, Stephanson announced he would not seek re-election.
“I love serving as Mayor of Everett, my hometown and a community that has been so gracious to myself and my family," Stephanson said in a statement. "We’ve accomplished a lot together over the past 14 years, from revitalization of our local economy to investing in our neighborhoods and serving the vulnerable with compassion.
"While I had considered running once again for this post, upon reflection and conversations with my family I have decided to step down at the end of my term. I don’t make this decision lightly, but it is the right decision. Vikki and I are so appreciative of this city and its’ people, and we look forward to many more years of engagement in this wonderful community.”
In challenging Stephanson, who ran unopposed in his last bid for re-election, Sullivan said his campaign is about change.
“I’m not going to criticize my opponent,” said Sullivan, who, in his third term, is currently chair of the Snohomish County Council representing Everett, Mukilteo and some unincorporated areas.
“I think he’s done some very positive things. But, after 14 years in office, it’s time for new leadership.”
Stephanson has said his re-election bid had the support of most of the Everett City Council, as well as many county, state and federal elected officials representing the city.
Sullivan boasts backing from police and firefighters unions, as well as labor and machinists unions, among others.
“I think their frustration comes out as a result of being underfunded and understaffed,” Sullivan said of city police and firefighters, which he said are short 18 officers and 28 firefighters, respectively. “That frustration has come out with their endorsement of me.”
Improving public safety by way of building up police and fire resources is key to succeeding on other issues, such as economic development and creation of affordable housing, he said.
“If elected, I will hire police and firefighters and I won’t close down stations,” he said. “In order to develop your city for economic development or affordable housing, it has to be safe.”
Sullivan said that approach is nothing new for him.
“My success in Mukilteo relied on hiring the right managers and department leaders,” he said. “Mukilteo was one of the first cities to put a school resource officer in a high school when I was mayor. I created a community policing board. We had had over 100 volunteer firefighters in a station that was condemned and I transitioned that department and made it a full-time operational department. We literally built the police department from scratch. I am very proud of that.”
Sullivan, now 58, was 27 upon his election to the Mukilteo City Council in 1985. Four years later, he became mayor and soon found himself overseeing the annexation of Harbour Pointe.
“The population of Mukilteo, when I took it over in 1990, was about 2,500,” he said. “When I left eight years later, it was 18,000. We went from a $15-million assessed valuation to a $1-billion assessed valuation over night with that annexation. We tripled the population and literally doubled the fiscal size of the city.”
Sullivan applauded Stephanson’s creation in 2014 of the Community Streets Initiative task force and the Safe Streets plan that came out of it. That has been focused on addressing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues by partnering social workers with police, launching a work program and building a housing complex to get people off the streets.
“Pulling people together and making these recommendations by citizens is always a good thing,” Sullivan said. “Now we need to put the resources in. That means hiring more social workers, police offers and fire fighters. And rather than assigning police officers to work on these issues, let’s look for officers to volunteer to do this work.”
Sullivan said quick action is required in order to solve such problems, and he said he intends to move rapidly if elected.
“I will move rapidly to create low-barrier housing,” he said. “We need to go after grant money to create housing to get people off the streets. We also need to create temporary facilities for showering and laundry services.”
Residents in the Pinehurst and Glacier View neighborhoods were angry upon learning the city was planning to locate a low-barrier housing complex nearby off Evergreen Way. Low-barrier housing follows the housing-first model in which residents are not required to be sober or be in a treatment program to get housing.
“Once you get low-barrier housing up and running, you have a high success rate of getting people off drugs and getting them services,” Sullivan said, noting that the model allows service providers to work directly with residents to get them treatment. “Once you know where they are, you can get them treatment.”
Sullivan said the project was made possible by his work on the county council, but he also said he’s troubled by the lack of notice provided to neighboring residents.
“I was the guy who gave Everett $1 million this year out of the county budget for low-barrier housing,” he said. “That was my proposal. We gave it to the city as a grant. I would have added more strings to the contract had I known their process wouldn’t be very transparent. If we decided to put low-barrier housing in north Everett, the residents there would have a problem with that. Why should Pinehurst be treated any differently?”
Sullivan said Everett’s struggled to shake the opioid epidemic took a troubling turn when in January Stephanson and the city council decided to sue Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the makers of OxyContin.
“When you sue somebody, it could take years and millions of dollars,” he said. “We could instead be hiring police officers and putting them on the street. It would be best to get other cities and counties to participate in a lawsuit. Everett going it alone is probably not the best idea.”
On economic development, Sullivan, who owns a restaurant in Mukilteo, said he sees growth everywhere but Everett.
“My perspective is economic development is happening around the city but not so much in the city,” he said. “Retail is failing and home values and home ownership are low.”
Stephanson brought production of Boeing’s 777X wing to the city and lobbied to get Washington State University’s North Puget Sound campus sited in Everett.
“I was there, too,” Sullivan said, noting his six years in Olympia as a state representative and his work on getting Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner assembled in Everett. “I was on the Legislative team that negotiated that deal.”
Sullivan also said that as the city’s demographics continue to shift and the population keeps growing, the need to increase representation also rises.
The face of the community is changing and the elected representation is not keeping up with it,” he said, noting that he is looking at a redistricting change to the city’s charter. “I am supporting breaking the city into five districts with two at-large positions.”
Sullivan grew up in Mukilteo. He graduated from Mariner High School in 1977. It wasn’t until about four years ago that he officially moved into Everett, but he said the lines dividing the two cities have never meant too much to him.
“If you grew up in Mukilteo in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you grew up in Everett,” he said. “Everybody worked at the same mills and the same aerospace plants, everybody went to the same bowling allies and everybody went to church together.”
When it comes to the proposal for scheduled commercial passenger service out of Paine Field – an issue that hits close to home for Mukilteo residents – Sullivan said he still wants to see as much mitigation as possible, in spite of a state appeals court’s recent rejection of the City of Mukilteo’s lawsuit that challenged the county’s decision to offer a lease option.
“At this point, I do not see an out on this,” he said. “I think it’s time to mitigate the two-gate proposal and get the hours of operation and the number of flights mitigated. I don’t think Mukilteo will ever drop its opposition to it, though.”