Mayor John Kartak has first day in office
The new boss: Mayor John Kartak receives applause from city staff after being sworn in.
SNOHOMISH — The staff of City Hall gathered in anticipation near the front foyer the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 29, with most arms crossed, and all eyes were on the front door. Then-acting city manager Steve Schuller stood with city attorney Grant Weed near the door, also waiting.
From across the street, in came the new Snohomish Mayor John Kartak. He was coming to take his oath of office in front of city staff. It was his first day as mayor, since the County Auditor certified the Nov. 7 general election results and confirmed him Nov. 28 as the new
Snohomish hasn’t had a strong mayor since 1971.
The city staff may have
been concerned for their jobs since the government restructure had already ousted the city manager position held by Larry Bauman.
Some of the first words Kartak spoke to city staff that morning addressed those possible concerns.
“First of all, there’s been a lot of rumors,” Kartak said after the city staff lined up in the lobby. “And it’s been a really interesting election season and I just want to let
everybody know here that every time I’ve come in, or had a question for any one of you, you guys have been so helpful and I know that we have a really well-oiled machine here.
He added: “Despite all the rumors, I don’t want any shake-ups at City Hall.”
Kartak, who hasn’t ever run a city before or held public office, was elected by voters last month after a
tumultuous election campaign season.
Supporters of both Kartak and his opponent City Councilwoman Karen Guzak
often engaged on social media with negative, “divisive” and heated debates and discussions. The election devolved into someone or several people perceived to have created fake profiles that trolled supporters; and one “social experiment” that featured a list of names, mainly vocal Guzak supporters, that were “doxed” by publishing their addresses online.
Voters decided to change the city’s government structure to a strong mayor system in the November 2016 general election; sparking the biggest change in recent city
history and driving a wedge between Kartak’s supporters and supporters for Guzak,
who lost by a margin of 2.5 percent.
These days the same supporters all speak of building bridges. Kartak’s first day in office may have been among the first steps.
Within the first few minutes of addressing the staff at City Hall, his words minced the negativity that had surrounded his victory.
“I know that it’s been tough. We’ve gone through a change in government. You’re no longer going to have the same executive for so many years; every four years, you’re going to have to deal with this and I know it’s going to be tough on you from here on out,”
Kartak told City Hall
staff. “Every four years, (there will be) a potential change for executive and that means a new boss and it’s one of those things where, you do
have a new boss now, and I feel like you might have some ideas. If you have any ideas for improving
things, I’d like to know what they are.”
Kartak had said on his campaign Facebook page he had planned to review the city’s budget and other projects; while also condemning what he called “drama
and slander on Facebook” from people that were critical of him and his supporters.
But all that aside, Kartak has been doing his research to prepare for his new job.
He recently attended a Monroe City Council meeting, where Mayor Geoffrey Thomas greeted and spoke with Kartak post-meeting. Thomas is also a strong mayor, and was re-elected
for a second term last month. Other aspects of Kartak’s research and preparation include several
meetings with city staff and the city attorney Weed, but he soon won’t be the only one running City Hall.
Kartak has said he plans to hire a full-time city administrator to help run the
daily and administrative operations sometime after the holiday season and into the new year. As of press time, the candidates have not been revealed.
In the meantime, Schuller has been named interim city administrator. He joined the city in summer 2008 as a public works employee and became public works
director when Tim Heydon retired. Past city manager Larry Bauman gave Schuller an elevated, second role of deputy city manager in 2015.
When Kartak finished
speaking to City Hall staff
and a few good-natured jokes and anecdotes were shared, one staffer asked how he wanted to be addressed.
“You can address
me as John, and in an official capacity, Mayor Kartak, that way it doesn’t look like I’m showing any favoritism,” Kartak said. “Call
me John, please. We can all be on a first name basis, if you’d like to be referred
to any other way, just let me know.”
One staffer whispered something as a name Kartak could refer when addressing her, inciting some giggles
from her co-workers that caught Kartak’s attention and he looked at the staffers questioningly.
“She said ‘Queen,’” a staff member clarified brightly, and the City Hall crowd
and Kartak erupted with laughter.
Shortly after, Weed swore Kartak in with his oath of office so he could get to work officially as Mayor. He was publicly sworn into office with five other City Council members at the Dec. 5 city council meeting.
“I’m really excited for everything from here on out,”
Kartak said. “I have a lot to learn and it’s a new season in my life, at least for the next four years.”
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