Reflecting on past, looking to future during 2024 Lynnwood State of City address

Mayor Christine Frizzell listens to other speakers before her speech.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell delivered her 2024 State of the City address Wednesday, with a focus on the concept of thriving. Wendy Poischbeg, the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County’s interim president and CEO, and the morning’s emcee, invited attendees to celebrate Lynnwood’s 65th anniversary, introducing a key theme of the morning – a juxtaposition of past and future. 

Wendy Poischbeg, interim president and CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, was the event emcee.

A stand-up tribal blessing was led by Mike Evans, president of the Snohomish Tribe of Indians. He offered a ceremonial land acknowledgment that echoed sentiments of Lynnwood past, far before it became an incorporated city or settlement and was instead home to Indigenous people. 

Mike Evans delivers the tribal blessing.

Lynnwood City Council President George Hurst delivered opening remarks that focused on the value of the city planning and the failure that could occur in its absence. Such planning led to the upcoming City Center project, along with future amenities such as walkability in a planned promenade, accessible transit and a park.

Director David Kleitsch spoke about the Imagine Lynnwood project.

The next speaker was Lynnwood’s Director of Development and Business Services David Kleitsch. He stated that the demographics of Lynnwood were changing to reflect growing diversity and economic conditions. The population’s median age is now 40, and 37% of residents speak languages other than English. The median household income in Lynnwood – $63,743 – is lower than the county average. Median rent is $2,122.

He explained that the department will spend a large part of 2024 creating the updated Lynnwood Comprehensive Plan. It concentrates and guides Lynnwood’s future growth using a series of core values: equity, livability, orientation to transit, sustainability and resiliency.

Regarding local opportunities, Kleitsch said the presence of Edmonds College was a great boon to the city, as it now provides four-year degree programs that allows students to gain the skills they need to flourish without leaving the city.

Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail extension is scheduled to open in in autumn 2024. One of the biggest accomplishments of the project, Kleitsch said, is that the Lynnwood Transit Center was kept open during the long-term construction. A projected 17,900 residents will board at the Lynnwood Transit Center each day, which would make it the busiest station in the light rail system. It will also be the northernmost station and end of the line until its projected extension to Everett in 2037 at the latest.

For now, Kleitsch said the rail would “connect Lynnwood to the region in a way it’s never been connected before.” He added that work continues on the adjacent Northline Village, an 18-acre mixed-use area that will add over 1,000 apartments, 500,000 square feet of office space and over 250,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space. Planners endeavor to make this portion of Lynnwood City Center a premier gathering hub for the county and region.

Police Chief Cole Langdon

Following Kleitsch was Lynnwood Police Chief Cole Langdon. Langdon was appointed to his position last July and said he quickly learned as chief that there were no perfect, fix-all solutions to solve crime. Langdon elaborated by saying that although incidents will continue to occur as a consequence of human failure, he has also seen great kindness and duty in his work. One of his aims as chief, he said, was to cultivate a happy and healthy culture in the police department.

“‘Public safety is trusting the relationship between the police and the public,” Langdon said. He spoke about new and innovative public safety initiatives that will be available soon as the city’s new Community Justice Center and its adjacent Community Recovery Center are close to opening. The facilities both aim to reduce recidivism and create more support for individuals in need, like those suffering from addiction. He thanked supporters for their help in bringing the facility to reality. 

Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby (center, in red) and Councilmember David Parshall (right, in blue) were among those seated in the front of the room.

He acknowledged a recent gunfire exchange between officers and suspects fleeing from a crime and commended his officers for their courage and sense of duty. He also asked for a moment of silence to recognize the sacrifice of Washington State Trooper Christopher Gadd and his family. Gadd was killed March 2 when an intoxicated driver collided with his parked police SUV. 

Other items mentioned by Langdon include moving away from the “crisis mode” operation style the police department has used in the past few years. The police are working to fill its open positions and planning for specialized training. The training and additional personnel, Langdon said, will enable the police to be less reactive and more proactive in their approach to dealing with crime. 

The next speaker was Cheri Ryan, whose achievements in Lynnwood historical preservation received special recognition from Mayor Frizzell. Ryan serves as president of the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association and is a member of Sno-Isle Genealogical Society and the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission. 

During her remarks, Ryan presented  a broad overview of the last 100 years, informing attendees of the century-long journey Lynnwood has taken to reach its present-day status.

Lynnwood’s first city hall.
Lynnwood, 1966
Fred Meyer speaking at the 1968 opening of Lynnwood’s Fred Meyer
A grand opening flyer for Lynn Theatre

She went through several stages of Lynnwood – starting from when its land was purchased for a lumber operation, to when residents of the newly developed Alderwood Manor were encouraged to become chicken farmers for egg production, to the development of railways and the election of the city’s first mayor, Jack Bennett. She recalled fond memories of her time growing up in Lynnwood, including watching the empty lot — where her fellow teens had raced around on dirt bikes — become the Alderwood Mall in 1979.

Hurst, Frizzell and newly named City Historian Cheri Ryan.

At the conclusion of her presentation, Frizzell asked a surprised Ryan to stay on stage and awarded her with the title of City Historian, granting her a key to the city for her extensive work in cataloging and preserving Lynnwood’s history. Ryan’s family was one of few families who settled in Alderwood Manor in 1928, and she uses that unique perspective and memory to aid her work on the city’s History & Heritage Board, which creates exhibits and other programming at the museum at Lynnwood’s Heritage Park. Ryan’s years of labor in the effort of preserving and sharing local history made her a natural choice for the position, the mayor said.

City Historian Cheri Ryan surrounded by those she described as “her people.”

Ryan’s predecessor, City Historian and My Neighborhood News Network columnist Betty Gaeng, died in April 2023. The late Gaeng and former Lynnwood City Councilmember Loren Simmonds – who died in Dec. 2023– were honored for their service to the community in a moment of silence prior to Frizzell’s speech.

Mayor Frizzell delivers her address to the about 200 event attendees.

Frizzell’s State of the City address focused on change and thriving.

“Sixty-five years ago was 1959 and it was an exciting year for our community. It was also exciting for my family because it was the year I was born,” Frizzell joked. “Yes, I am the same age as our great city and personally, I think we both look pretty good for our age.”

She arranged her remarks for the occasion by focusing on the acronym THRIVE, a word she chose to embody the year.

T- Thankful

Frizzell began by thanking the day’s speakers and administrative staff who put together the event. She also expressed her appreciation for long-term residents who are hesitant or worried about the future but continue to bring their best to the city. 

Councilmember Nick Coelho, center, seated next to his wife.

H- Health

“When we think about health, it’s hard not to think about our beautiful parks and trails, and our  recreation center,” she said. “Our parks, recreation and cultural arts department continues to find new and innovative ways to improve the health of our community for years to come.” Frizzell praised parks department staff’s focus on collecting state and federal grants, which allow the city to supporta lively, diverse and healthy community. 

Frizzell said that the city has heard concerns from residents worried about public safety and that each city department is working to address local issues and make sure residents are safe and feel that way.

The City of Lynnwood’s financial health also factored into Frizzell’s assessment. 

“Lynnwood’s current economy is healthy and strong,” she said. “Our sales tax revenues, which make up a major portion of your budget, remain steady and we continue to see a lot of new developments in our community.” Current financial health aside, the mayor recognized that Lynnwood would likely be facing financial challenges as a result of inflation. She assured the audience that city leadership was planning with this in mind.

She requested that residents share what their priorities are for the city during upcoming public conversations to occur throughout the year.

Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember Steve Woodard (blue) is seated behind Edmonds Mayor Mike Rosen (gray).

R-Relationships

The concept of making and strengthening relationships was repeated throughout the event, and Frizzell continued the theme by sharing some of the things that Lynnwood is currently doing to build those. Among them: Plans are being considered to increase the size of Lynnwood’s Senior Center. The city hosts several events and volunteer opportunities. City boards and commissions convene regularly with staff members and the city council to provide input.

Outside of the city, Frizzell said, the city fosters relationships with state and federal officials to advocate for project funding and provide input on legislation. 

I-Intentionality

As mentioned by Kleitsch and others, Lynnwood is planning decades in advance using a variety of documents. 

“In 1993, under the leadership of our longtime Mayor (Meryl) Hrdlicka, a document called Legacy Lynnwood planned many of the changes in our yet-to-be City Center area, which we are seeing today 30 years later,” Frizzell said. “This document was prepared with considerable input from more than 200 community members, and it has stood the test of time as it projected the coming of light rail and City Center, among other projects. I keep a copy near my desk to refer to.”

Frizzell reported that the ParksLove project, after two years of planning and information collection, was recently adopted by the city council. The ParksLove project received grant funding to design the guidelines for maintaining and responsibly expanding local parks and trails to give the whole community the chance to enjoy the natural world.

Other big undertakings referenced by Frizzell include  plans for the city’s roadway and transit systems and the city’s wastewater treatment facility plan. The wastewater plant was the cause of great stress last year when the city was fined by the EPA for failing to meet clean air standards because of a failing sludge incinerator. The new system will not require incineration. 

V-Vision

While planning is underway for Lynnwood’s near and far future, current work does not stop. Frizzell stressed that vision shapes the future, just as plans from decades ago formed the Lynnwood that exists now. A big part of that vision focused on transit and now that construction for the Lynnwood light rail extension is coming to an end, the city is planning for the light rail line’s extension to Alderwood Mall and Everett.  

E-Empower

“Empowering means making sure we have the tools we need to thrive. Equity and inclusivity are essential in how we operate,” Frizzell continued. “I firmly believe that the best way to empower our community is through having a well-informed and educated public. Our goal as a city is to always be transparent and accessible.”

Lynnwood residents can learn about local projects through several means. In addition to mailed editions of the quarterly printed newsletter Inside Lynnwood, the administrative staff recently unveiled a new monthly newsletter called The Mayor’s Memo. For a list of outgoing communications from the city, residents are encouraged to visit lynnwoodWA.gov.

Those more civically inclined can partake in Lynnwood University later this year. The program, taught by “Professor” Nathan MacDonald, teaches the public about how the city runs.

Residents in the city or even those nearby were urged to join the conversation through whatever means they preferred. This could include watching or commenting at weekly meetings held by the Lynnwood City Council, talking to staff at tables during events or emailing. 

“So, if you’re ready to be on this ‘thrive’ journey with us, start where you are,” the mayor concluded. “Look around to see what needs to be done and connect with one of our many community partners — likely your passion is a great match for an existing, like-minded organization. If that doesn’t create a match, let’s talk about something new.”

— Story by Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

— Photos by Nick Ng and Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

— Historical photos provided by Cheri Ryan

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