Homecoming for City Councilmember Ruth Ross

Ruth Ross is returning to the Lynnwood City Council after a four-year absence. Ross was elected to her former Council Position No. 3. Also pictured is Ross’ dog Aurora.

By David Pan/Lynnwood Today editor

This week is going to be a bit of a homecoming for Ruth Ross.

The Lynnwood City Council’s first work session of the New Year is scheduled for Monday night, and for the first time in four years, Ross will be sitting in a familiar seat: City Councilmember Position No. 3.

Ross, who lost her reelection bid for the seat to former City Councilmember Kerri Lonergan-Dreke in 2009, ran and successfully won her seat back last November, defeating Douglas Lovitt.

“I am thrilled and delighted to serve again,” Ross said.

Ross actually will be one of the more experienced members of Lynnwood’s elected officials in terms of city government.

New Mayor Nicola Smith, who defeated incumbent Don Gough, hails from Edmonds Community College where she was most recently the Dean of Student Life and Development. Fellow Councilmember Ian Cotton, who also won his race in November, is a first-time office holder. Councilmember M. Christopher Boyer was elected in November after being appointed in December 2012. Council Vice-President Sid Roberts and Councilmembers Benjamin Goodwin and Van AuBuchon were elected in 2011.

Ross previously worked with Boyer, who she served with on the City’s Arts Commission, and City Council President Loren Simmonds, who was elected in 1999.

All of these relatively new faces along with a new mayor should make people excited about the future, Ross said. She noted that the city has quality staff.

“We have such an excellent staff and established staff that they’re not going to steer anybody down the wrong path,” Ross said. “They can be depended on to do the right thing and to communicate the right ideas. We have some wonderful department heads. I just think standing back and letting them do their jobs is the first thing people should do. … I think it’s going to be a fresh start for Lynnwood.”

It’s also a fresh start for Ross, admits that it was an odd feeling when she was not reelected for a third term to the City Council in 2009.

“Probably the most striking thing I learned when I was elected was all of a sudden all these wonderful ideas that I had all the time, people started to pay attention to what we thought,” Ross said. “When you lose, they stop that.”

But in some ways Ross felt that it was right for her to leave the City Council then. At the time she was unemployed and she was able to find a job.

“It allowed me to get back in the swing of regular go to work during the day, come home at night kind of thing,” Ross said. “I did run (for reelection) but I don’t think my heart was in it. It had been eight years. I was under a lot of stress because of my unemployment. I take care of my mom. She lives with me.”

Ross stayed on the Arts Commission for about a year and a half but then eventually also stepped away from that position.

The City Council did have some openings and Ross thought about applying for them but decided against it.

“For my own self, I would much rather be elected than appointed,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to go back.”

During her time away from the City Council, Ross completed a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Bellevue (Nebraska). The 18-month, online program was hard work and Ross learned a lot. Topics covered in the program include various budget issues, grant writing and crisis communication.

The decision to run for the City Council again was difficult, in part because Ross didn’t know who was going to be mayor. The election of Nicola Smith has allayed any concerns.

“It will be very nice to serve differently with newer people and a new mayor,” Ross said. “I can’t wait to see what happens.”

The new administration and the City Council face a number of challenging issues, including what seems to be the top concern of many people: traffic.

“It’s time for us to take a very serious look at traffic and what we can do to improve it, especially on the main east-west routes, because they are nearly impossible,” Ross said. “If we have to make them bigger or have to do something different with them, we need to seriously start looking at that because it’s going to be a long term project and long term funding.”

People also expressed concerns about the financial situation in Lynnwood. The lack of communication from the previous administration has been part of the problem, Ross said.

Despite increasing revenues, the city still is projected to have budget problems. The answer to the city’s financial problems is going to be some sort of a combination of increased taxes and budget reductions, according to Ross.

“It’s going to have to be both,” she said. “I don’t think you can cut your way out of it. I don’t think you can increase revenue out of it. You can’t tax your way out of it. It has to be a very serious discussion of levels of service, quality of service and core values.”

The discussion needs to put everything on the table.

“It just has to be the whole big picture, everybody roll up your sleeves and let’s see what we can do,” Ross said. “Bring your freshest ideas to the table.”

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