Snohomish Council Pos. 4: Tom Merrill vs. Brian Mills
We ask the candidates...
Incumbent Tom Merrill (left) faces challenger Brian Mills for a seat on the Snohomish City Council.
SNOHOMISH — In the race for City Council position No. 4, two retirees seek to help guide Snohomish’s future.
The incumbent, Tom Merrill, is running for a second term on council. He was elected in 2017 to an open seat, narrowing beating former councilman Swede Johnson’s comeback attempt. Prior to this, Merrill served on the city’s 2016 ad hoc government transparency committee and applied to fill a council vacancy in early 2017; the council selected Jason Sanders for that seat. Merrill retired from a management job at PACCAR trucks.
Challenger Brian Mills is a third-generation Snohomian who’s brought joy for years playing with the Snohomish Sauerkraut Band. He is a retired career firefighter who capped off his service by rising to be a deputy fire chief in the Seattle Fire Department. In Snohomish last year, Mills applied to fill a council vacancy; the council chose Felix Neals for it.
The Tribune asked both candidates five questions and is reprinting their answers.
What are the city’s largest priorities right now?
Merrill: We need to address housing — our housing stock is in short supply. Our available housing is becoming too expensive for low and middle income families. Employers mention cost and scarcity of housing as one barrier to hiring the staff necessary to rebound from pandemic closures. Financial recovery from the pandemic downturn, for residents and small business, is an additional priority.
Mills: Public Safety, traffic, and attracting new business.
For parks, what specific areas should the city devote more resources?
Merrill: We need to continue building out our inventory of undeveloped parks with special attention to completing the Carnegie Park and returning the Veterans Memorial. As a part of our parks program, we need to address policies to eliminate the rapid, city-wide, loss of tree canopy by putting in place policies to preserve, when possible, and generally increase our tree population.
Mills: There needs to be a thorough evaluation of the status of the parks in general, and then deliberation about whether or not additional budget authority be allocated to address any deficiencies. Devoting more resources without a plan is wasteful.
Yes or no: Should the city act today to allow denser residential in parts of town as one way to encourage affordable housing?
Merrill: The city is already acting on the question of denser housing options. The recent Midtown planning group sent recommendations to the Planning Commission with options for denser housing in certain areas around the old County Maintenance site. In addition, a review of the city’s land use and zoning plan – contained in the Comprehensive Plan - is scheduled to start in November.
Mills: No. We should maintain our current allocation.
What is Snohomish lacking, and what steps would you take to try to change this?
Merrill: Snohomish lacks an overall plan for meeting issues of climate change – particularly anticipating and dealing with extreme climate events, such as the heat dome this past summer. We have a duty of care in this regard for our vulnerable residents. This is a safety issue that can be creatively addressed by our Public Safety Commission.
Mills: We are lacking nothing. It is a great town. We simply need to make sure that as we move into the future we don’t lose what we have.
What is your No. 1 goal you hope to see for Snohomish’s near-term future through being on the City Council?
Merrill: We are in the midst of rapid Snohomish County growth and change. I will work to anticipate and plan for it in a way that maintains our special Snohomish character. I want us to be a place that allows all families to thrive and warmly welcomes visitors.
Mills: To work past differences between council members and/or the mayor in order to ensure that the City remains safe, financially stable, and vibrant.