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Karen Guzak steps out of Snohomish mayor role

Councilman Tom Hamilton, pictured, is city's new mayor

SNOHOMISH — The city has a new mayor, Tom Hamilton, after Councilwoman Karen Guzak gave her mayoral resignation during last week’s council meeting.
Guzak, owner and teacher at Yoga Circle Studio, plans to remain on the City Council for the rest of her term through 2019.
Guzak was Snohomish’s peer-nominated mayor for seven years.
Hamilton, the owner and operator of balloon adventure company Hot Air Heaven*, has served on city committees, local nonprofit boards and in local government for 12 years. He has been a councilman since 2010.
The City Council voted in Hamilton as the new mayor shortly after Guzak’s announcement and official resignation.
It was a choice between Council-man Michael Rohrscheib and Hamilton for mayor among the nominees. The vote went 5-2 for Hamilton.
Mayor pro tem Lynn Schilaty declined a nomination. She will stay as mayor pro tem.
According to Hamilton, councilmembers and city staff were officially made aware via email of Guzak’s plan to give up the mayor title hours prior to the Feb. 7 council meeting.
Guzak said post-meeting that “it is what it is.”
“I’ve just had to change my signature on my city email, from ‘Karen Guzak, mayor’ to ‘Karen Guzak, councilwoman,’” she said Thursday, Feb. 9. “But, it’s been seven years, it is what it is, and I’m approaching this with as much grace and humor as possible because of the past year (the council has) had.”
In the past year, the city council came under scrutiny and sometimes animosity from some residents over city policy and government transparency.
It’s been through some turmoil with the city’s upcoming change from a “weak mayor” government to “strong mayor” government after voters narrowly passed Proposition 2, something Guzak fought against prominently. The council just selected new Councilman Jason Sanders due to former Councilman Zach Wilde abruptly resigning after being outed for living outside of town. Guzak said she felt she brought the City Council through all that, but, also felt it was someone else’s time to be the mayor-in-title for the last remaining months of the city’s weak-mayor government.
“The thought of me resigning happened over several months — first with the loss of Prop. 2, I started thinking about my role, talking with other councilmembers, friends, and wanted to see the new councilmember be chosen. After that, I thought maybe my resignation would bring more peace, for Council.”
More peace, Guzak said, could mean less acrimonious city council meetings that have stemmed from criticisms directed at her.
“I would stand up for my other city councilmembers, I would stand up for our city manager and city staff, and when people come to a council meeting angry I would tell them, ‘direct your comments, your negativity, to me’,” Guzak said. “So, this is all to diffuse the negativity. I’ve handled it, I think, pretty well. But hey, let Tom (Hamilton) see how he can handle it.”
Hamilton said late last week how he intends to handle being the new weak mayor, by reaching out to some of the folks tied with city government-critics group CPR-Snohomish as well as speaking with county and nonprofit leaders.
“I’ve reached out and tried interfacing with CPR and the Snohomish Citizens for Responsible Government (Facebook) group, to get their input and to have a better sense of what people want from Council,” Hamilton said. “I feel like I’m able to be what is needed. I’ve been the Transportation Benefit District board chair, when there was a board, I was chair of the planning commission and have been active in politics for 12 years. I also served on boards of nonprofits. I feel like I have the chops to do it and we’ll see how it goes. There’s certainly a number of emotions with it, because I’m excited for the challenge,
a little overwhelmed by the challenge, even though I’m a weak mayor, there are still a lot of responsibilities to accept. Obviously this is really a transition period for the city until the new strong mayor is elected in November, but it won’t be me. I see myself as somebody who is helping with the transition.”
CPR-Snohomish issued a statement late last week on Guzak’s resignation that reflected on her opposition to Proposition 2.
“This wise change should help neutralize fabricated divisions such as when Ms. Guzak (as mayor) brought in ‘big guns’ of special interest money from Washington D.C., raising $13,000 to oppose a successful, citizen-initiated ballot measure that changes our form of government,” said group co-leader John Kartak. “This is in comparison to our local $1,300 spent to educate ‘yes’ voters. Had Ms. Guzak (as mayor) simply let the people decide for ourselves, we would likely have enjoyed a more unified outcome.”
In the November election, Snohomish voters will choose the new strong mayor.
Guzak said she wasn’t sure at this time if she plans to run for the position.
“I may submit my name 50 minutes before the deadline, or I may really like the candidates that do run and decide to support one of them,” Guzak said cheerfully. “But if I do run for strong mayor, I think I have the skills, knowledge and enough fire in the belly.”
If Guzak runs, CPR-Snohomish said in its statement, “her record will be reexamined.”

* - CORRECTION: A previous version of this story listed Tom Hamilton's prior employer. The Tribune regrets the error.


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