Mayor Gregerson to run for Snohomish County Council

If elected, would give up last 2 years of current term
By Brandon Gustafson | Dec 05, 2018

Mukilteo’s mayor is looking to succeed a former Mukilteo mayor.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson announced her candidacy for Snohomish County Council for District 2, which includes Mukilteo, Everett and portions of unincorporated Snohomish County.

The election for that seat will take place as part of the Nov. 5, 2019 general election, and if elected, Gregerson would give up the remaining two years of her four-year term. A new mayor would likely be elected in a special election, the first of which usually occurs in February.

Gregerson, the first female mayor in Mukilteo’s history, was first elected mayor in 2013. Prior to that, she was a Mukilteo City Councilmember from 2004 to 2013. She grew up in Mukilteo, and graduated from Kamiak High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in French from New York University, and a master’s in urban planning from the University of Washington.

Brian Sullivan has represented Snohomish County’s 2nd District since 2007.

Sullivan was mayor of Mukilteo from 1990 to 1997, and was a Mukilteo City Councilmember from 1986 to 1989. Prior to his election to Snohomish City Council, Sullivan served as state representative for the 21st Legislative District from 2001 to 2007.

Gregerson announced her candidacy through a press release, and the mayor currently holds endorsements from Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary, state representatives Strom Peterson and Derek Stanford, Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley, and Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith.

“As Snohomish County continues to grow, Jennifer Gregerson is the experienced and principled leader we need,” Peterson said. “She understands how to collaborate, bring together public and private interests, and develop strategies and programs that lead to real community benefit and economic opportunity for all.”

Many changes have occurred in Mukilteo under Gregerson’s leadership.

Gregerson expanded public access to Mukilteo’s waterfront, and was on the forefront of developing the city’s bike and pedestrian master plan, which developed Mukilteo’s first bike lanes in decades.

She also assisted with the creation of Alliance for Housing Affordability, the regional housing partnership, which is investing in a new trust fund to fight homelessness.

Gregerson also partnered with the Mukilteo School District to bring in a school resource officer, and with Edmonds Community College to create “Cool Girls in Aerospace,” a summer program to introduce the STEM field to young Mukilteo girls.

Gregerson told The Beacon she’s considered the move to Snohomish County Council since she was first elected to city council.

“I’ve always thought there are some good things that can be done at the county level,” she said.

Gregerson also acknowledged she would have to give up her last two years of her four-year term as mayor, which she said would be really hard to do.

“I love being mayor, but I would still represent Mukilteo,” she said.

She said it would be hard to leave working with the city’s excellent staff day in and day out.

“All the people who work at the city, they’re wonderful people who are smart, professional, and do great work.”

With many big changes in Mukilteo on the horizon, Gregerson noted it would be hard to not be leading the city as they happen.

“We also have big projects that are going to happen, like the redevelopment of our waterfront, and the Harbour Reach Corridor Project. It would be fun to hold the ribbon cutting scissors, but I’d still gladly come to those events,” she said, laughing.

Gregerson said she has spoke with Sullivan about her intentions, and noted the two share very similar backgrounds with their transition from councilmember to mayor, and now possibly, a shift to Snohomish County Council.

“Brian has been a supporter of mine since 2003,” Gregerson said. “I think he’s sort of waiting to see who all is running for the race before backing anyone.”

Gregerson said her biggest focuses on her platform are the opioid crisis, homelessness and affordability, public safety, and aerospace.

She said the county needs to look at the root causes of the opioid crisis and homelessness, and look at housing for homeless citizens in the county.

“I think with my background in urban planning, it gives me the right frame of mind to look at the whole picture.”

Gregerson said the aerospace industry is very important to the 2nd District, and said she wants to make sure students have internship opportunities in that field, as that is a huge employment opportunity, and would allow for more people to live in the areas they grew up.

Above all, Gregerson said she’s excited to learn what issues are important to residents in the entire district, not just Mukilteo.

“I’m really excited to be launching into something where I’ll have new things to learn.”

 

 

Issues with City Council

Gregerson’s last 13 months as mayor have been without controversy, as many Mukilteo City Councilmembers have taken issue with how Gregerson is running the city.

On Nov. 8, 2017, Councilmember Scott Whelpley made a motion to reduce the mayor’s position to part time, with a salary of $30,000.

The motion was tabled to their Nov. 13 meeting, where the motion tied 3-3, and another motion was made to adjourn the meeting, which passed, killing the original motion for the time being.

The drama continued into December, when then-Council Vice President Steve Schmalz moved to eliminate Marko Liias’ policy analyst position. Liias, the state senator for the 21st Legislative District, held the position since 2014. The motion passed 4-3.

Gregerson was visibly upset after the motion passed, and made a statement many councilmembers found inappropriate.

“I can’t wait to see what a great advocate the senator will be now that you fired him,” Gregerson said. “I just can’t wait to see that.”

After Whelpley claimed Liias should advocate for the city as he is an elected official who represents Mukilteo, Gregerson retracted the statement, and apologized.

“Let me apologize to the council,” Gregerson said. “I really see the value in the position, and it’s upsetting to me that you’ve eliminated it, so I sort of let that get the best of me, and so I apologize to you for that.”

A few months later, councilmembers learned the city was receiving a $400,000 grant from the state legislature to fund the Peace Park, a small park for those who have lost friends and loved ones, namely the three Kamiak grads – Jake Long, Anna Bui, and Jordan Ebner - who were killed during the 2016 shooting.

With $400,000 going to that project, the city lost a $721,000 grant for the daylighting of the Japanese Gulch. It was later discovered Gregerson directed then-Community Development Director Patricia Love to apply for the grant, and Liias directed the swap of funds.

Things took a turn in August when Whelpley unveiled multiple severance and separation agreements of ex-city staff members who received more money on their way out of the city than specified under the city’s policy.

The policy allows employees who were fired without cause to receive two months of pay in accordance with the city’s payroll, or monthly.

In certain cases, employees were paid an extra month’s severance, and those payments were in one lump-sum payment. In another case, former Management Services Director Chris Phillips received a month’s pay despite his voluntary resignation.

Gregerson signed off all the agreements.

Liias was one of the ex-employees named by Whelpley. Liias received three months pay, all in one payment, and received $6,355 for tuition reimbursement despite there being no receipt or record of him passing his coursework at the University of Washington.

Liias later told The Beacon he asked Management Services Director Steve Edin whether he needed to submit those, but was told he didn’t need to. He later gave the receipt and transcript to Gregerson, who sent them to the councilmembers.

Whelpley claimed the agreements should have come to council for approval as they differed from the city’s policy. Eventually, a motion passed 6-1 where all future memorandums of understanding, severance agreements, separation agreements, and collective bargaining agreements had to be approved by the city council.

At the Aug. 21 meeting, Councilmember Anna Rohrbough made a motion to vote in no confidence of Gregerson’s leadership, claiming Gregerson circumnavigates the process of city government by excluding the council from decisions it should be involved in, withholding factual and valuable information in order to serve her personal agenda, and manipulating the truth and lying on record. Rohrbough also accused Gregerson of using department directors and city employees “as a screen, blaming them for the decisions you are ultimately required to make.”

The motion passed 4-2, and Gregerson said she wanted to put all the drama with the council behind her.

“Now that the council has expressed their views, I hope everyone can work together to focus on what matters most: providing excellent city services, ensuring public safety and planning for the future of the waterfront,” Gregerson said in an email to The Beacon after the meeting.

In late October, the council voted to obtain outside legal help to review allegations that Gregerson violated state RCWs with the alleged misappropriation of funds in separation agreements.

At the Monday Dec. 3 meeting, the Mukilteo City Council approved obtaining the legal services of Kenyon Disend, PLLC for up to $40,000 through Dec. 31, 2019 to review allegations against Gregerson.

Also at the Dec. 3 meeting, councilmembers revealed the state auditor’s office, which has been reviewing the city of Mukilteo’s finances for the last few months, has made the decision to run information by the state’s assistant attorney general. It is unclear when the audit will be completed.

For a more in-depth story on the approval of outside legal counsel, see page 2.

 

 

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Dec 05, 2018 13:39

1) With these nagging issues around relations with the City Council and the ongoing audit not to mention the FAILURE to deliver quality Community Transit services to the Future of Flight after raising the transit sales tax to the highest in the state...  I think with the permission of the tower I'll exit Runway 34 Left.  Take the scenic route home via OLF Coupeville.

 

2) ICYMI, Let me be clear, read my lips: Enjoy your 2019 campaign season folks.  This time, your Skagitonian neighbor will be too busy fighting COERdassians.

 

3) Can't wait to see how that State Audit works out!  I just hope we get some conclusive answers out of the investigation so decisions can be made.

 

4) Sure wish Mayor Gregerson did not apologize for saying what she thought, we need more truth like that out there - not less.  I still think Jennifer Gregerson is a good community-minded person with decades of community service left in her; I just have nagging concerns with the Community Transit Boardmember & the Mayor - not the human being yet and I don't think I want to...



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