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It's Official: Dave Earling New Edmonds Mayor, Faces Economic Challenges

Incumbent City Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Lora Petso are also sworn in.

As Dave Earling strode to the podium in the Edmonds Library Plaza Room to be sworn in as Edmonds’ 35th mayor on Tuesday, short trumpet bursts from Debbie Dawson, the Edmonds Police Department's senior animal control officer, heralded his arrival.

It may have been a bit over the top for the city officials, friends, family and ordinary citizens in attendance, but seemed appropriate enough since Earling is a music major who taught music at Shoreline Community College for 11 years and plays taps each Memorial Day—on his trumpet—during ceremonies at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

That moment of levity continued when Earling began his speech—no notes—with a nod to his sense of humor. He said he simply wanted to run for mayor so he could give an acceptance speech, not actually run the city. Just kidding, he said.

Earling, along with incumbent City Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Lora Petso, was sworn in by retired judge and longtime Edmonds resident Joseph Thibodeau as today was the day that results of Snohomish County votes from the Nov. 8 elections were certified by the Snohomish County Canvassing Board.  

City Council President Strom Peterson introduced the ceremonies.

Earling, Buckshnis and Petso are being sworn in before the customary beginning of a new year because incumbent Mayor Mike Cooper, Buckshnis and Petso were all appointed to their positions—Cooper with the departure of Mayor Gary Haakenson, Buckshnis with the death of Peggy Pritchard Olson and Petso with the resignation of Dave Orvis.

Washington law requires appointed candidates who win their subsequent elections be sworn in when election results are certified, which was Tuesday. Earling, Buckshnis and Petso will officially be sworn in again in January, along with new City Councilmembers Frank Yamamoto and Joan Bloom.

Although Earling joked early, the rest of his short speech centered on humility and serious plans for Edmonds. Although he earned more than 10,000 votes and 65 percent of the total, Earling stressed he didn’t like the word “mandate.” He said he preferred “humble” and “inspired,” the latter because 63 percent of registered Edmonds voters turned in their ballots, making it one of the highest rates in the state.

Earling was blunt about economic challenges facing the city, saying former Edmond finance director Lorenzo Hines, former interim finance director Jim Tarte and current finance director Shawn Hunstock all agree that expenses will exceed revenue by 2013. Acknowledging the decisive defeat of three proposed tax levies in the recent election, Earling said the city has four options for economic recovery:

  • Hope for a miracle
  • Ask voters to approve property-tax hikes with more levies
  • Cut deep into the city’s budget. Earling said this has been done in the past by not filling open positions. He also claimed that Edmonds has the lowest percentage of staff to its population in the state.
  • Create and economic plan. This is Earling’s preferred method, as you'd might expect, and the city is already working on a strategic plan toward this end. Part of the plan includes drawing new businesses to town. Redevelopment of Harbor Square, for example, would bring between $300,000 and $400,000 in tax revenue, Earling said.

Before Earling was sworn in, Buckshnis and Petso gave short speeches. In Petso’s case, it was really short—she said she was gratified to be elected to the council.

Buckshnis’s speech was a little longer. “The voting results reflect that a majority of Edmonds’ citizens recognize the value and focus that I've brought to the council since being appointed,” she said. “I am ready to continue my work …  Clearly, this was a close election and we all knew that considering my opponent (Bob Wilcox) was a third generation ‘Edmondsonian’ whose family has been greatly respected in the community for decades. 

“After experiencing the challenges of being in the public eye for two years and again campaigning, I have great respect for anyone that chooses to run for elected office. I hope Mr. Wilcox will continue to involve himself with the issues facing our city. I suspect and hope that I will hear from him and his supporters often in the coming years, as my goal has always been to represent and consider the perspectives of the entire Edmonds community.”

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