Mark Asmundson is one of those elected officials who very few people feel ‘blah’ about, even in the third year of his third term as Bellingham’s mayor. His work while in office ellicits strong feelings from the vast majority of Bellingham residents and business owners, both for good and for ill.
He is lauded by by many left-leaning voters for his efforts on the environment and in keeping sprawl to a minimum, while many conservative voters deride him for being pro-tax and anti-business.
Either way, his decision to step down in November to take the position of manager of the Northwest Clean Air Agency means that an interim mayor will be chosen by the City Council, with that person holding the seat until next November’s general election.
First and foremost, our position on Asmundson’s legacy is that anyone who contributes nearly 20 years of their life to elected service deserves our appreciation. The headaches and stresses of public service are legion, and the thanks from the constituents rare — so thank you for you efforts on behalf of the city.
Bellingham is, without a doubt, in better shape now than it was when Asmundson first assumed office. Detractors will no doubt say his efforts have not contributed to this growth, and ardent supporters will place much of it in his lap. The truth lies somewhere between the two, but few of us would argue the salient point that Bellingham is a better place to live, with a more vibrant economy, than it was 10 years ago.
That said, Asmundson has seemed to grow weary of his job in the third term, shying away from positions where strong leadership was needed. The most vivid example of this has been with the process along the waterfront at the former G-P site now owned by the Port of Bellingham.
As contentious wrangling has followed almost any initiative or effort proposed by the port, the mayor’s office, despite its place as co-anchor of this incredibly important effort, has been virtually mum, issuing only the occasional plea for cool heads while studies are being completed.
What this city needs now is someone who will step into the mayor’s seat and champion this effort for being what it is — the most important redevelopment effort in the past 100 years — not avoid taking sides or stepping solidly into the fray as a visible leader.
Yes, the city government has chugged quietly along of late — we’re not trying to say the infrastructure is crumbling around us. But what the city needs for the next year, and for the four years after that, is a mayor more willing to tackle big issues from a position on the front lines. Sometimes, especially of late, it has seemed that Asmundson would rather quietly finish out his term than make any waves at all — and this is the wrong time for that type of leadership.
As the City Council begins deliberations on whom to bring in to fill this last year of Asmundson’s term, we hope they take into account that fresh ideas and new blood are needed, and not just a new body in the chair.
by Rik Dalvit