Snohomish County Executive Director Gary Haakenson to retire in October

Gary Haakenson - contributed photo
Gary Haakenson
— image credit: contributed photo

After more than 18 years in public service, Snohomish County Executive Director Gary Haakenson is retiring on Oct. 8.

“Gary Haakenson is regarded as one of Snohomish County’s most dedicated public servants,” Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said. “No matter what office he has held, nor the challenges he has encountered, he has handled it all with integrity and unmatched energy. He’s going to be terribly missed in this office and throughout county government.”

Haakenson, co-founder of the Lynnwood-based international retailer Zumiez, began his public-service career as an Edmonds city councilman in January 1996. He was elected Edmonds mayor in 1999 and served in that role until July 2010, when he came to Snohomish County to serve as deputy executive for the previous administration. Though they were challenging years for Snohomish County government, Haakenson persevered and was a unifying force for elected officials and county employees.

“It was tough on everybody,” Haakenson said of those years. “What I’ll take away from this experience is the professionalism and dedication of Snohomish County employees. They did their jobs under the most trying circumstances. I’m honored to have worked alongside them.”

Haakenson was named executive director of public safety in June 2013 after John Lovick was appointed county executive. He was called on to serve as the county’s long-term disaster manager for the SR 530 Slide following the devastating March 22 mudslide near Oso that claimed 43 lives.

“I knew right away Gary was the right person to take on this critical role,” said Snohomish County Deputy Executive Mark Ericks. “Some leaders are great at reaching out to people in need and connecting with them; other leaders’ strength is in problem solving. Gary is that rare leader who can pull off both at the same time.”

Haakenson isn’t getting away without a proper goodbye party. The public is invited to celebrate his years of service from 1-3:30 p.m. on Sept. 23, in the public hearing rooms in the Robert J. Drewel Building on the main county campus in Everett. Haakenson’s toast will begins at 2 p.m.


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