Admirers bid a virtual farewell to Mayor Nicola Smith

More than 100 people attended a goodbye event on Nov. 19 for Nicola Smith (top, second left) who served as Lynnwood’s mayor since 2014.

As Nicola Smith prepares to retire, the two-term mayor of Lynnwood was celebrated last week during a virtual goodbye event hosted by her friends and supporters.

More than 100 people attended the online event Friday to say farewell to Smith, who announced she would not seek a third term as mayor. On Nov. 2, 53% of voters elected Lynnwood City Councilmember Christine Frizzell to take her place.

During the online gathering, many people — from city employees to residents to other elected leaders — said they would remember Mayor Smith for her strong leadership. Assistant City Administrator Art Ceniza — who worked alongside Smith for the past eight years — praised Smith’s collaborative nature. According to Ceniza, Smith was elected at a time when the city desperately needed strong leadership, and her collaborative approach helped transform the workplace culture for city employees, making it a more desirable place to work.

“If there was ever a time when strong leadership was needed by a mayor, that was it and I am very grateful to tell all of you that Mayor Smith never blinked,” he said.

Prior to Smith’s arrival in 2014, the city’s finances were in disarray and Lynnwood had few partners at the regional and state levels. State Rep. Cindy Ryu — who represents the 32nd Legislative District — said she was thankful that Smith was willing to build those partnerships. Additionally, Ryu praised Smith’s support for business owners.

“Nicola. you have touched the lives of every person on this call, and you’ve set many of us on the road to success,” she said.

After leaving mayor’s office at the end of the year, Smith and her husband Del plan to retire on seven acres of land called “Green Velvet” in Snohomish County. During the event, Del Smith thanked everyone who supported his wife over the years and complimented her work.

“I’m so proud of her and (what) she’s accomplished,” he said. “As we move ahead in our next life phase, we can always remember the events of the past eight years and the many people we can now call friends.”

In addition to developing local and regional partnerships, Lynnwood resident Wally Webster mentioned Smith’s efforts to make international partnerships through the city’s Sister City and Friendship City programs with South Korea, Mexico and Ethiopia.

“Lynnwood is a welcoming city and that foundation was laid by Mayor Smith,” he said.

When she first ran for mayor, Smith campaigned on a promise to improve several areas, including how building permits were issued in the city. Her administration oversaw the creation of the city’s Department of Development and Business Services (DBS), which combined city services previously provided by community development, economic development, the fire marshal’s office and public works development services. Through the new department, city staff were able to make sweeping improvements to the city’s process for permits and made the city a more desirable place to build.

“(Smith) has brought the community vision forward,” said DBS Director David Kleitsch.

With the arrival of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail in 2024, Lynnwood has been positioned as a transportation hub for the region, and in 2020, Smith joined both the Community Transit and Sound Transit Board of Directors. While working together, Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz said Smith helped give him the confidence and made him feel welcome in the city.

“Mayor Smith gets (transit) and the importance of mobility to every vibrant community, whether it’s light rail or bus or microtransit or alternative transit,” he said. “She’s been there every step of the way promoting mobility improvements for her community and for the citizens, and we’re all better off for it.”

In addition to transforming the city’s finances and permitting process, Smith has been credited for restructuring the Lynnwood Police Department to make it a community-centric resource. Police Chief Jim Nelson thanked Smith for her leadership, which he said culminated in plans for the future Community Justice Center and the corresponding recovery center. 

“I look forward to giving you a tour of the Community Justice Center and the Community Recovery Center as we continue the work that you were so instrumental in putting together for our community,” he said. 

Frizzell said she and Smith began talking in 2018 about Frizzell running to become Lynnwood’s next mayor. Now, Frizzell said she hopes to build on Smith’s work establishing partnerships to make the city stronger.

“(Smith’s) not loud with her voice but she shouts with her actions, and I want to continue that as I sit in the mayor’s office,” she said.

To learn more about Smith’s time as mayor, read Lynnwood Today’s previous story here.

–By Cody Sexton

  1. Congratulations on getting your expanded jail when the city has no secure why to pay back the over 60 million debt that you spearheaded. You were determined, you got it no matter what. Have a lovely retirement!

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