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John Kartak likely to become Snohomish mayor

Kartak, who’s never held government office before,
looks like he will lead city of 10,000


SNOHOMISH — Voters are electing a mayor as the chief executive in City Hall for the first time in four decades.
One of the builders of the leadership change, John T. Kartak, led the latest election polls against Councilwoman Karen Guzak, who last year fought against changing the city government structure.
The elected mayor will take office on Tuesday, Nov. 28, the same day that the election is certified.
Prior to Election Day last week, people concerned about issues of transparency, the change in the city’s form of government, the marijuana advisory vote and the opioid epidemic were braced for the defining significant shifts in Snohomish.
No bigger race was that of the mayoral race; pitting Kartak, a semi-retired general contractor, against the politically experienced city councilwoman and yoga teacher Guzak.
On the night of the general election, Kartak was ahead of Guzak by a mere 23 votes. By the next day, and the next, that margin difference got bigger, and Kartak appears to have pulled off what
many regarded as impossible, even to other local news outlets, politicians, and businesses: He won.
As of press time Monday morning, Kartak was ahead of Guzak by 85 votes at 1,566 to 1,481 votes. There were 150 ballots still to count as of press time, county elections director Garth Fell said.
Of the 6,227 ballots mailed out to registered voters in Snohomish, more than 3,160 people cast votes.
The city’s change in government means City Manager Larry Bauman will lose his position, as the change wipes it out.
Bauman has scheduled his anticipated last day to be Wednesday, Nov. 22. A celebration and recognition for Bauman will be held
Monday, Nov. 20 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Collector’s Choice Restaurant, 215 Cypress Ave.
The mayor can hire a city administrator, and Guzak had said she would have temporarily hired Bauman to help with a smooth government transition.
Kartak said he was talking with candidates to become the city administrator as Snohomish’s second-in-command.
According to County Elections manager Garth Fell, the voter turnout in Snohomish was higher than usual at above 50 percent. In 2015, Snohomish saw a 39 percent voter turnout, while in 2016, a Presidential election year, there was an 80 percent turnout.
“It’s certainly up from the last non-Presidential
election year,” Fell said on Friday, Nov. 10. “We still have more ballots to count, and if there are any close races, I would say it’ll be into next week before candidates will feel comfortable calling their race.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Kartak posted on Facebook about how if he is elected as mayor, he would reach out to the districts within the city that he had lost to Guzak according to the ballot return demographic map.
Kartak said it’s “to make sure it’s understood that I want everyone to have a voice through their Elected Mayor (not just those who ‘agree’ on things),” he wrote. “Representation for everyone in this town is desperately needed, and, as Mayor, I would work with our New Council to facilitate this so that within my reasonable
ability, no important (or) controversial decision will be made without the community’s best arguments (for all sides) brought to the conversation first.”
Guzak said she was happy with how her campaign was run, and wasn’t ready to concede. At the time, Guzak was down by about 80 votes.
“It’s not going in the right direction for me but I want to say that in analyzing I think what’s going on is — even though I voted against marijuana two times on Council and one time personally, I think that the word was on the street that I was pro-marijuana and I think is was what was damaging in my election,” Guzak said in a voicemail. “I feel really sad that those misconceptions and lies
were propagated about me.”
“I feel that I ran a really great, clean campaign and my ‘Kindness Crew’ helped me enormously. And assuming that I’m not going to be the next mayor, I’m certainly going to be on Council and I plan on being the most effective councilmember that I can. And really pay attention to the direction of the city and work for the greater good.”
Kartak first came on the political or municipal scene with his early involvement with CPR-Snohomish, a grassroots organization created during the city’s cell phone tower debacle in late 2015.
The cell tower issue created a sudden mistrust of the city’s leadership.
Outcry began in summer 2015, with attention directed against the cell tower.
Verizon withdrew its application in October 2015.
By 2016, the CPR-Snohomish group was created, with Rolf Rautenberg, Bill Betten and Kartak as the leaders, and they decided to start campaigning for a change in the city’s government.
Kartak began promoting Proposition 2, calling for a change in the city’s form of government back to “strong mayor” so that the elected mayor could be made directly accountable to the people, he had said at the time.
By November 2016, the Prop. 2 measure was on the ballot, and voters passed it by 11 votes following a re-count.
The city had no choice but to examine the changes, and spend the better part of this year preparing for the shifts in its government, and eventually, its elected officials.
Previously, Kartak shared with the Tribune that Rautneberg and Betten had asked him to make a run for the strong mayor position. He said he didn’t want to, at first, but ended up filing in April. He campaigned on “small town values” and going to work for the people.
During the campaign, Guzak, who filed for mayor in June, reported to have raised $24,211.80 to state Public Disclosure Commission records, and as of last week, her campaign spent $22,910.46 trying to win.
Kartak’s campaign raised less than $5,000, from PDC records.
Kartak was still not certain of his victory, but provided a statement to the Tribune: “This has been fun,” Kartak said on Friday, Nov. 10. “It’s been an honor to run against my opponent, Karen Guzak, I know she loves this town and I look forward to working with her. And this is whether I win or not. Boy, it looks really close to me.”
If Kartak wins, Guzak would still have a seat on the City Council. Her term as a council member expires in 2019.

 

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