Everett, the Puget Sound port city that is now the county seat and largest city in Snohomish County, incorporated in 1893 and elected Thomas Dwyer as its first mayor that same year. The office of mayor has changed hands many times in the city's subsequent history, and the position has also changed in its level of power, authority, structure, and policy priorities as Everett has grown and changed. Since its incorporation, Everett has been governed under four different city charters, each setting specific lengths of term and levels of authority for the mayor. Six of the city's first 37 mayors were born in foreign countries: three in Canada, two in Denmark, and one in the Netherlands. It was not until 1977 that a native of Washington state became mayor of Everett, when Joyce Ebert (1922-2004) was appointed to complete the term of a mayor who resigned. Ebert was also the city's first woman mayor. Four decades later, in 2018, Cassie Franklin (b. 1971) became the first woman elected mayor of Everett. A list of all Everett mayors to date appears at the end of this article.
Committee of Twenty-One: Everett's Earliest Government
Everett was founded by a group of wealthy East Coast industrialists and investors who saw great promise in the area's geography and abundant natural resources. Beginning in the fall of 1891, they rapidly developed the townsite, with the expectation that the Great Northern Railway would terminate there and open up lucrative new transit and trade opportunities.
As the population grew and new businesses developed in Everett, a provisional government was formed to manage the needs of a booming community. The "Committee of Twenty-One" addressed issues including crime, sewage, gambling, prostitution, and unregulated saloons. It attempted to impose order for Everett's 5,000 citizens. The committee met in the Hart Block Building on Hewitt Avenue, in Everett's Riverside neighborhood. It governed Everett from March 21, 1892, until the spring of 1893, when Everett incorporated and adopted a city charter with a mayoral form of governance.
Of the 21 men who served in this interim provisional government, only one went on to be elected mayor. James H. Mitchell (1856-1935) served one term, from 1906 to 1907. Mitchell was better-known in Everett as the assistant postmaster. He served in that role for 20 years. His wife, Becca Mitchell, was Everett's first postmaster, appointed in July 1891.
Everett Incorporates in 1893
Everett's official incorporation was delayed until the spring of 1893, due to pending litigation. In an election held on April 27, 1893, voters overwhelming chose to incorporate, by a vote of 670 to 99, and narrowly selected Thomas Dwyer, a Democrat-Fusion candidate, over his opponent, J. C. Mitchell, a Populist, by just three votes.
Everett's first city charter called for a mayor-council form of government, with annual elections and one-year terms. That charter was in place until 1907. In Everett's first 14 years, the city was led by 11 different mayors. There was little political stability or longevity with such rapid administrative turnover.
Those early years also lacked economic stability. The community, designed to be an industrial and trade powerhouse, was hit hard by a national economic downturn. Although Everett's boosters presented an optimistic outlook for the young city, the stock market collapsed within days of the city's incorporation. As America slid into a depression known as the Panic of 1893, a gloomy economic cloud cast a shadow over Everett's political leadership for many years.
Everett's First Mayor: Thomas Dwyer
Everett's first mayor, Thomas "Ed" Dwyer, served from May 9, 1893, until January 2, 1894, during a period of great economic turmoil. He struggled to lead the city through a weak and faltering economy, with many banks and businesses folding.
Thomas Dwyer was born in Sullivan County, New York. In May 1891 he arrived in Everett from Wisconsin, where he had worked on railroad and contracting activities. In January 1893, Dwyer, and his business associates R. M. Mitchell (d. 1927), John C. McManus, and W. F. Edwards incorporated the Everett & Snohomish Electric Railway to build seven miles of street railway lines between Everett and the city of Snohomish. Dwyer, who also served as secretary and treasurer of the Land & River Improvement Company, was rocked by his own personal financial losses during his brief tenure as mayor.
Dwyer did not remain long in office. Norton Walling succeeded him as Everett's second mayor in January 1894. Dwyer left Everett shortly thereafter.
Mayor Two Times: Jacob Hunsaker
Jacob Hunsaker (1845-1920) served as mayor for two non-consecutive terms. He was Everett's third mayor, taking office on January 7, 1895. He was also the 11th mayor, taking office in January 1903. Hunsaker served first during a period of economic hardship and later during a time of relative prosperity and industrial growth in Everett.
Born in Illinois in 1845, Hunsaker was the first Everett mayor to live out the remainder of his life in the community. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in 1920. His daughter, Hallie Hunsaker (1883-1980), lived in Everett all her life. She shared memories of her father's political career in an oral-history interview in 1976:
"My father always liked politics. And none of his family did, I regret to say. I wish I had taken more of an interest in it. Because he was very much alone, politically" (Hunsaker interview).
Hallie Hunsaker also described Mayor Hunsaker presiding over a parade in town. When he noticed that sidewalk boards had come loose, he went to the hardware store, borrowed hammer and nails, and fixed the sidewalk himself. She described that episode as being very typical of her father's administration and hands-on approach to city leadership. One of the highlights of Hunsaker's second term came in 1903, when he presided over President Theodore Roosevelt's visit to Everett.
In 1907, Everett's population surpassed 10,000 for the first time, and voters approved a new city charter. The new charter preserved the mayor-and-council governing format and extended the mayor's term to two years. By this time, Everett had completely recovered from the devastating economic depression and had become a thriving industrial city. Its many lumber and shingle mills were kept busy with orders from near and far. There was a heavy demand for Everett lumber from San Francisco as it began rebuilding after the devastating 1906 earthquake. Newton Jones (1866-1922) was elected mayor in December 1906 and re-elected in November 1907. Jones was the first mayor to serve a two-year term under the new charter.
It was during this same era in the city's history that Everett's most famous and possibly most controversial mayor took office. Roland Hill Hartley (1864-1952) launched his political career as mayor when he was elected for a two-year term in November 1909.
Industrialist, Mayor, Governor: Roland Hill Hartley
Hartley's mayoral administration was marked by significant controversy and conflict, particularly around issues of labor and local prohibition. Despite his polarizing history in Everett, Hartley went on to serve in the state legislature and for two terms as governor. Hartley was mayor from 1910 to 1911. He was elected to the legislature for the 1915-1916 session, and became the 10th governor of Washington, serving from 1925 to 1933. Hartley, a Republican, was backed by enormous business and political power. To date, no other mayor of Everett has held the office of governor.
Hartley was born into a large family in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1864. At the age of 13, he left home with two brothers and they found work in Minnesota. Hartley worked as an axman, logger, teamster, and river driver up the Mississippi River. He completed business courses through the Minneapolis Academy, which led to a job as bookkeeper with Clough Brothers Lumber Company.
Hartley served as a secretary to David Marston Clough (1846-1924), the mill president and governor of Minnesota from 1895 to 1899. In 1888, Hartley married Clough's daughter, Nina Clough (1869-1953). The Cloughs moved to Everett to take advantage of the many industrial opportunities available, and Hartley and his family followed in 1902. The Hartley and Clough families built homes on a bluff in North Everett overlooking their mills. Hartley became vice president of the Clough-Hartley Mill in Everett and amassed a fortune that would fund his future political ambitions.
Hartley was elected as Everett's 13th mayor in 1909, during the same election in which Everett voters passed a local prohibition measure. By 1910, when he took office, Everett's population had swelled to 25,000. Its economic and industrial strengths were evidenced by its 95 manufacturing plants, including 11 lumber mills, 16 shingle mills, and 17 mills that produced both. Everett had a heavily unionized workforce, with 25 labor unions representing workers in the city.
The local prohibition measure meant the closure of the city's 41 saloons, which cut city licensing revenue. To balance the budget, Hartley laid off one-third of the city's police force and street cleaners and turned off municipal lighting. As a result, his term as mayor was characterized by significant conflict with the city council on city improvements, saloons, taxes, and other issues. Hartley's perspective and interests as a lumber baron made him largely unpopular with Everett's heavily unionized labor force. He did, however, support building public playgrounds for children and sanitary comfort stations. Rather than seeking a second term as mayor, Hartley turned his sights toward state-level politics.
He was elected to serve in the state House of Representatives from 1915 to 1916. Only two other Everett mayors, S. Frank Spencer (1881-1954) and George Culmback (1888-1960), have been state representatives. While serving in Olympia, Hartley's strong anti-labor policies continued to put him at odds with Everett's many trade unions.
In 1924, Hartley won the first of his two consecutive terms as governor. He also ran unsuccessfully for governor on four occasions, in 1916 and 1920, before winning the office, and then in 1932, when his bid for re-election ended in defeat in the Republican primary, and 1936. Hartley died in Seattle on September 21, 1952. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Everett.
Charter of 1912: Commissioner Format
Everett's political structure changed dramatically in 1912, only five years after adoption of previous charter. The city adopted another new charter, which provided for government by a group of three commissioners: finance, public works, and safety. Commissioners served for four-year terms, and the commissioner with the largest plurality served as mayor when needed, for ceremonies and other honorary programs. Everett functioned under this form of government for 56 years, with 14 mayors and 19 administrations. Mayors from 1912 to 1968 thus wielded far less authority than those before or after them. Lacking any significant executive power, the role of mayor was largely symbolic during this era.
Still, several notable men served as mayor during this era. John Henry Smith (1858-1956) was the public-works commissioner and mayor from 1924 to 1928. He came to Everett in 1901, but spent significant time in Alaska around the time of World War I. Smith was better known as one of the founding fathers of Anchorage, Alaska. In Everett, he was credited with the completion of the city's Sultan River water project, which was initiated nearly a decade earlier.
George Culmback was a finance commissioner who served as mayor from 1956 to 1960. He came to the United States from Denmark as a teenager to help his uncle, Chris Culmback (1866-1956), operate a tobacco and confectionary business in Everett. Culmback was active in the Republican Party, and represented the 38th District for three terms in the state legislature, from 1926 to 1932. He also served as an Everett Public Library trustee and a member of the Everett Board of Education prior to serving as mayor. Culmback died in office on July 6, 1960. His long history of public service to Everett and to Washington state was honored in 1965 with the naming of Culmback Dam at Spada Lake in Snohomish County.
George Gebert (1896-1980) became mayor upon Culmback's death. Gebert followed an unusual path to the mayor's office. He began his career as an Everett Herald newspaper carrier early in the twentieth century. He went on to serve in the navy during World War I and became well known in the community for his work as a shoe salesman in downtown Everett. Encouraged by his wife to sell the shoe business, Gebert used his customer base to get elected to the position of public-works commissioner.
Gebert recalled how he translated his success in customer service to public service:
"When I sold out, I had 7,000 names of people who bought shoes from me. So I went to work. I got a nice little letter out to these 7,000 gals. I said, it was pleasant waiting on you and selling shoes. Now I'm running for Commissioner for Public Works, and I'd like you to vote for me" (Gebert interview).
Enough happy shoe customers voted for him to assure victory. He attributed his success in politics to the same qualities as success in business: the ability to pay close personal attention to individuals.
A New Political Era: The Charter of 1968
The passage of a new city charter in 1968 marked the beginning of Everett's current political era. The charter eliminated the commissioner form of government and implemented a strong-mayor-and-council form. The term "strong mayor" does not reflect judgement of an individual's skills or attributes. Rather it denotes the consolidation of power and authority in the position.
George Gebert, who had served as mayor during his term as public-works commissioner, considered the strong-mayor structure to be less effective than the commissioner format, which he thought was more responsive to constituents:
"I'll tell you, to me I think the commission form of government was by far one of the finest, having served on both of them as a councilman and as a commissioner. I think the commission was just wonderful, and I'll tell you why. Today, you have a mayor and seven councilmen. Well, those councilmen meet one day a week now. Then they're gone for a week. If you want to go and bring up a problem, many times I've seen it happen, they'll say, well we'll be meeting a week from today and we'll take that up. Someone had a problem and had to sit around and wait. Now the commission form of government, in which I served in the beginning, there were three commissioners. The three of us, we were there at 8 o'clock in the morning and we were there for the balance of the day. If you had a problem, perhaps it was a safety problem, then you'd see the commissioner of public safety. If he had a problem he couldn't solve, he'd bring it up to the other commissioners" (Gebert interview).
Although power was more diffuse in the commissioner government, Gebert saw it as a more efficient and accessible form of public service than the mayor-council form. He also considered the commissioners to be better qualified based on discipline (safety, public works, or finance) than the modern strong mayors.
Robert C. Anderson (b. 1929) was the first mayor to serve under the new city charter. Arthur F. "Bud" Alexander (1911-1992), a safety commissioner elected in 1964, had planned to serve until 1970. However, the new charter caused a change. Anderson was elected on November 5, 1968, under that charter and re-elected in 1973. He served for nine years. Anderson's policy priorities were economic vitality in Everett's central business district and managing the economic impacts of a Boeing recession in the late 1970s.
Anderson resigned in October 1977 to accept an executive position at Olympic Bank. In an interview at the time of his resignation, he described his philosophy of local government:
"My philosophy relates back to what I believe to be the responsibility of the citizens of any community. I believe that if the citizens of the community have framed an appropriate form of government for their needs, then their responsibilities are to elect the most competent persons to fill those jobs. In the case of the City of Everett, there's competency, I think, in two regards. One, the elected official who is the mayor must be a competent administrator. The council persons must reflect the broadest possible community involvement and they, too, must have the perception to be able to deal with issues in the future as well as in the present, and they must be persons who are willing to speak to the courage of their convictions. And I think finally there must be a commitment on the part of the community to be involved in the process of government. If this combination is successful, in the main, over the long pull, the community will prosper and do very well indeed, regardless of its economic potential or anything else, because there will be a spirit of accomplishment. But that's a heavy responsibility and I believe that probably in some regards, the vote is still out in this community. The transition period coming from my administration to the next over the next 10 years will be truly the proving ground of the long-term success of the mayor-council government in the City of Everett" (Anderson interview).
Anderson was replaced by Joyce Ebert, the city council president, to complete the remainder of the term, from October 11 to December 31, 1977. Although she did not seek election to the position of mayor, Ebert became the first woman to hold the office in Everett's history. She was also the first Everett mayor to be born in Washington.
Joyce McGladrey Ebert was born in nearby Stanwood. She worked as a naval chauffeur during World War II and married Bill Ebert, a well-known doctor in the Everett community. In 1973, Ebert became the first woman elected to serve on Everett City Council. She defeated incumbent Bill Dobler with a vote of 7,659 to 6,943. She described her desire to run for office: "I like to think of my candidacy as one of being a concerned citizen who is interested in serving the community" ("Light Turnout Forecast ...").
As a city leader, Ebert worked to revitalize and beautify Everett's central business district. Her brief term of mayor was marked by unusual administrative challenges. She had to personally hand sign all city employees' paychecks. The official plate with the mayor's signature to machine sign payroll would take six weeks to order, nearly the length of her tenure, and Ebert had clearly indicated that she would not seek election. At the end of her term, she left politics and public service to pursue business interests. Most notably, she worked on a major hotel development in Everett near Interstate 5 with business partner Theodore Dahl. Ebert retired in 1991 but remained active in civic and business interests until her death in 2004.
The next five mayors after Ebert were again men. William "Bill" Moore (1921-1997), who had served on the Everett City Council from 1968 to 1971 and 1976 to 1977, was elected mayor in 1977, serving from 1978 to January 1990. As mayor, Moore prioritized fiscal management and infrastructure. He is credited with leading efforts to secure Naval Station Everett. In 2014, Everett named its old city hall in Moore's honor: The William E. Moore Historic City Hall.
Twenty-First Century Mayors
Ray Stephanson (b. 1947) held office from 2003 to 2017, becoming Everett's longest-serving mayor. Stephanson was born in the Riverside neighborhood and grew up in the Pinehurst neighborhood, which was an unincorporated part of Snohomish County during his childhood. He attended Everett public schools, graduating from Cascade High.
As mayor, Stephanson championed Naval Station Everett and the aerospace industry. He promoted manufacturing and maritime industries and had a leading role in bringing commercial air service and light rail to Everett. One of his biggest achievements as mayor was creation of a Washington State University campus in North Everett. Public safety was another priority. Under Stephanson's direction, the city developed the Community Streets Initiative and the Safe Streets plan to address homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. Everett also became the first city in the country to file a civil lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in January 2017. "We determined that Purdue was aware their product was going into the black market, had an obligation to report, and didn't," Stephanson said ("City of Everett's Lawsuit ...").
At the end of his 14 years in office, Stephanson reflected on what he thought his legacy in Everett would be:
"Higher education has got to be right at the top of the list. I think securing the aerospace industry, the decision to bring a composite-wing-fabrication plant to Everett, by all accounts internal to the Boeing Company and the external aerospace experts, said that that's a decision that will have a financial impact for the next 50 years. So it's a big, big deal. I think seeing light rail and community life and residential living in downtown and in more urban areas is going to be a big part of our future ... That's sort of the things I see in our future. The waterfront development that we're doing. The riverfront development that we're doing is really going to change people's opinion about Everett" (Stephanson interview).
Pondering Everett and its future, Stephanson remarked:
"We offer an incredible, affordable quality of life here. All of the amenities of education, arts, culture, music, being able to find a job, being able to get from one place to another. That's what our future is all about. Those are the things I feel like I've had an impact on and I hope I'll be remembered for" (Stephanson interview).
In February 2017, Stephanson announced that he would not seek re-election as mayor, after previously stating that he would run again. Cassie Franklin, the executive director of the nonprofit Cocoon House and a city council member since 2016, received Stephanson's endorsement in the competitive mayoral race. Franklin defeated fellow city council member Judy Tuohy by just 169 votes out a total 14,911. Franklin was sworn in at a council meeting on January 3, 2018, becoming Everett's first woman mayor.
Everett Mayors, With Dates in Office
Thomas Dwyer: May 1893 - January 1894
Norton D. Walling: January 1894 - January 1895
Jacob Hunsaker: January 1895 - January 1896; January 1903 - January 1904
William C. Cox: January 1896 - January 1897
Jacob A. Falconer: January 1897 - January 1899
James O. Whitmarsh: January 1899 - January 1900
James E. Bell: January 1900 - January 1901
Charles K. Greene: January 1901 - January 1902
William E. Terrill: January 1902 - January 1903
Thomas E. Headlee: January 1904 - January 1906
James H. Mitchell: January 1906 - January 1907
Newton Jones: January 1907 - January 1910
Roland H. Hartley: January 1910 - January 1912
Richard B. Hassell: January 1912 - June 1912
Christian Christenson: July 1912 - June 1914
Thomas J. Kelly: June 1914 - August 1914
William H. Clay: August 1914 - January 1916, January 1920 - January 1924
Dennis D. Merrill: January 1916-January 1920
John Henry Smith: January 1924 - January 1928
Nelson D. Martin: January 1925 - January 1932
Arthur C. Edwards: January 1932 - November 1942
Stephen Frank Spencer: January 1940 - November 1942
John Davis Williams: November 1942 - December 1943
Henry Arends: January 1944 - June 1952
Louis H. Unzelman: June 1952 - May 1954
C. Arvid Johnson: May 1954 - June 1956.
George N. Culmback: June 1956 - July 1960
George W. Gebert: July 1960 - April 1964
Arthur F. "Bud" Alexander: April 1964 - December 1968
Robert C. Anderson: December 1968 - October 1977
Joyce M. Ebert: October 1977- December 1977
William E. Moore: December 1977 - January 1990
Pete Kinch: January 1990 - January 1994
Edward D. Hansen: January 1994 - July 2002
Frank E. Anderson: July 2002 - December 2003
Ray Stephanson: January 2004 - December 2017
Cassie Franklin: January 2018 - present