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In Our View: In Search of Leadership

The next county executive

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Campaigns are the new Farmer's Almanac. Prognosticators check wind patterns and measure drifting topsoil. The future, obscured, comes into focus.
The richest example is the 2015 race for Snohomish County Executive. Three years out, the campaign-to-be has ignited the almanackers, including the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. As The Herald's Noah Haglund reports, the builders' group is a significant source of campaign dinero in Snohomish County. With County Executive Aaron Reardon, an association favorite, freighted by scandal and prohibited from seeking another term, the industry is already highlighting potential contenders.
The line up includes state Sen. Steve Hobbs, a Reardon confidant, and Snohomish County's popular sheriff, John Lovick. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, and County Councilmembers John Koster and Dave Somers also are on the list. There were a few sins of omission, such as County Councilmember Dave Gossett as well as sensible and accomplished mayors like Marysville's Jon Nehring, Arlington's Barbara Tolbert and Mukilteo's Joe Marine (Marine has expressed interest.)
As the county exec imbroglio festers, making the county and the Reardon administration objects of derision, voters are anxious for a candidate with integrity and judgment. That might include someone outside the political sphere, such as Edmonds Community College President Jean Hernandez. Hernandez, a popular and creative academic, would follow the example set by Bob Drewel.
Drewel, who served as president of Everett Community College before his election as county executive, is an exemplar of distinguished public service and the antithesis of Reardon: Engaged in the community, sincere, someone whose leadership imparts respect around the state. He should be the benchmark.
Prognosticating also raises a broader question of Reardon's leadership. On the Sound Transit Board, the heavy lifting (think planning for ST3) falls on Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling. In 2012, whether it was a United Way breakfast, lunches for Domestic Violence Services or Senior Services of Snohomish County, Reardon was a no-show. Is disengagement a form of contrition or the county executive blowing a raspberry at critics and taxpayers?
On Saturday, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy resigned after "breaking the public trust." His transgression? Using his state-issued cell phone to call his mistresses.
Here in Washington, the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) is investigating Reardon for using his county-issued cell phone and staff for his 2011 re-election. No one expects Reardon to quit if the PDC finds him civilly liable.
Citizens hope for deliverance. For now, measuring the topsoil will need to suffice.

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