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Profiles of People: "Mayor"

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson will end his term as being 14 years as the city's mayor. What will he do next?

Mayor Ray Stephanson often would speak with the public with level-headed sincerity to explain the everyday happenings in Everett, and invoked his family’s experiences and his own in public dialogue. Above, he speaks at a spring 2016 “Share with Your Mayor” event.
Everett’s Mayor Ray Stephanson, be it for better or worse, will soon never have to listen to constituents, taxpayers, or anybody ask him
about anything sane or not so sane, relevant or not so relevant, under his purview.
Questions that come as a barrage to his office such as: Why aren’t there more permanent homes in the city of Everett? Why is this city being overrun by the homeless, the drug-addicted, the mentally ill? What are you doing to stop hate, extremism, bigotry? How about the horrible traffic issues? How am I supposed to get to work when the state starts working on the U.S. 2 trestle? How come you aren’t doing more to help unions? How come you are “allowing” Boeing to leave? Why didn’t you get us a four-year university sooner? Why isn’t the city’s workforce, especially the police and fire departments, diversified? Are all these Navy people
going to stay here? What are you going to do about crime, schools, animals not on leashes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Stephanson is retiring, so all these questions and thousands like them now have to be answered by the city’s next mayor, and he wishes her luck. He promises, “I will not be second guessing you, but if you ask for advice and counsel I will be there for you.”
I imagine that it will be hard for someone who is in his fourteenth year of being mayor of a city with such extreme growth, prosperity and problems to step away. As with so many people who have lived a long time and seen many things, Stephanson is looking forward to not being accountable for so much to so many.
Although he is a man who was raised by wonderful parents of modest means in a neighborhood where children ran barefoot and slept in tents without fear, his adult life has been filled with suits, decision-making, meetings and hours of work that would rival what we expect
from our doctors. His wife of 48 years, Vikki, and he want to play more, kick back with family while fishing and traveling — without a nagging part of his brain saying that the expectations of those in need, those in want and those just wanting to be heard
aren’t being met.
No one is going to tell him what to do as they did when he was in the Army or working on a commercial fishing boat in college. No one is going to demand results or have expectations as they did when he worked for GTE or Verizon. And the public will no longer have the right to make demands of his time, energy, or passions. However, as is true of most choices in life, anonymity or obscurity is a double-edged sword.
Power and prestige are heady atmospheres to exist in for prolonged periods of time. People get quiet when you speak. They listen to your words. Your thoughts are newsworthy and are printed, for good or bad, for posterity in stories with headlines such as: “A mayor, a college president and the phone call that landed WSU.” “Everett Mayor Stephanson’s statement on the recent Charlottesville tragedy.”
But now at age 70, Stephanson will get to spend more quality time listening to his grandchildren, and that makes him smile as we chat.
He’s very frustrated, “that the issues of homelessness and those who have addictions, mental health issue remain unresolved.” In his personal life journey he has come to realize they are like
you and I, but he completely understands how distressing it is for people to see the those struggling in public. The city is working to stem the homeless crisis.
He is hopeful the city’s lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company Purdue, which makes OxyContin pills that can be abused, will make a difference in the opioid crisis.
What will be this man’s legacy? It will be different depending on who you talk to and who is talking. As a mayor, he hopes he has improved the quality of life for those he has come in contact with. He suggests to the new mayor that “she stay engaged with the citizens, understand what their priorities are, improve the collective quality of life and listen to her remarkable staff and the dedicated public and private sector folks. Support them and they will support you.”
In any case, very soon, the most important aspects of tephanson’s life will revolve around being a good friend to people he cares about, being the husband, father and grandfather he loves being — and most importantly — doing anything he can do to help his family and friends be successful and happy.
* - I must note the mayor did not rule out coming back to serve others down the road as a volunteer or in some capacity, whereby all his professional experiences and knowledge can be of use. I hope he will do that because all that he has learned should not be lost. However, I think I did see him blanche just a bit when I suggested it at this time.

Author Patricia Therrell’s column normally runs every third Wednesday of the month. If you’d like to suggest someone to profile, let the Tribune know at or call the editor at 360-568-4121 x122.


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