Dave Earling: Diverse Civic, Political Career Leads to Mayor of Edmonds

Brian Soergel
Edmonds Patch
November 28, 2011
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Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on Edmonds Mayor-elect Dave Earling, who will be sworn into office on Tuesday.

A politician's life goes up. Then it goes down. Ask Edmonds Mayor-elect Dave Earling.

In 1997, Earling fell short to Jo-Anne Jaech in a close race for a seat on the Edmonds City Council. Four years later, Earling was victorious, defeating former councilman Dick Van Hollebeke after Jaech decided not to run again. Earling would go to win two more terms. He served on the council from 1992 to 2003, and was its president for five of those years.

In 2003, Earling entered a race for Snohomish County Executive. Despite an important endorsement from The Seattle Times, Earling lost to Aaron Reardon in another close race. Reardon, who just won his third term as executive, beat Earling 52 percent to 48 percent.

Now, in 2011, after urging from friend and business associates, Earling finds himself victorious once again with his win this month over incumbent Mike Cooper as mayor of Edmonds. He will be sworn in on Tuesday. The race wasn’t close, as Earling clearly rode a mandate from Edmonds voters with more than 65 percent of the vote.

On Nov. 8, Election Day, Earling waited for results with friends and family—which included his son, Eric, who was an unpaid campaign manager—at Portofino Pizza & Pasta. The first numbers showed him with a decisive two-to-one lead over Cooper. 

“When you see those first numbers come up, there’s this real state of apprehension,” said Earling. “I was looking over one of my son’s shoulders at a computer and we kind of did a double take. I was very hopeful that at the end of the first night that we’d be ahead. A number of my friends had speculated as to what the numbers might be, but the bottom line is you never know.”

Earling spoke from his small office on Fifth Avenue South in Edmonds. He’d originally agreed to meet Edmonds Patch inside Starbucks across the street. But the coffee shop was crowded and noisy, and Earling suggested his office inside Coldwell Banker, which is part of a building that he owns.

Earling was gracious when asked about Cooper, saying he’d been helpful in the transition of power. But Earling agreed that recent drama at City Hall, which included Cooper’s firing of Human Resources Director Debi Humann, a move that angered many of her colleagues, and the same-day resignation of executive assistant Kimberly Cole, helped him expand his lead over Cooper after a 13-point percentage margin in the primaries

“When you have issues like that in the middle of a political campaign, certainly it affects the outcome,” Earling said. “I don’t we did anything that would shake the confidence of those who supported me in the primary. We realized that we if we could get to the five or six thousand votes who voted in the general and the primary, we’d probably stand a good chance to win.”

Earling, 68, grew up in Spokane, attending Lewis and Clark High School before earning his bachelor’s in music performance from Washington State University. He also studied master’s level music performance at Eastern Washington University. (Earling has played taps on the trumpet for many years at Memorial Day ceremonies at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.)

After moving to Puget Sound in the 1960s, Earling decided to take advantage of his music education and signed on as a music teacher and band director at Shoreline Community College, positions he held from 1967 to 1978. After leaving his teaching career, Earling and his wife Susan moved to Edmonds, where they have lived for 33 years. He and Susan, who have three grown children and two grandchildren, live near the Perrinville neighborhood.

Earling went in to real estate as broker, manager and owner of Edmonds Realty for 25 years. At the same time, he began his active involvement in Edmonds civic activities. 

He served as president or chairman of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, Cascade Symphony, Community Transit, Edmonds Main Street Project, Edmonds Public Schools Foundation, Sound Transit and Senior Services of Snohomish County. (On Thanksgiving, Earling helped deliver Thanksgiving Day meals to seniors across Snohomish County for Senior Services of Snohomish County through its Meals on Wheels program.)

He also served as a board member for the Edmonds Center for the Arts and the Washington Conservation Voters. 

In 2006, Gov. Christine Gregoire appointed Earling to a six-year term on the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board. Prior to his appointment, he was a senior fellow at the Cascadia Center of the Discovery Institute, where he worked on transportation and regional issues. He left the $95,000-per-year Hearings Board position, which expired this June, to run for mayor, which currently pays $113,000 per year.

“I have the advantage of being involved in the community for as long as I have,” said Earling. “I know many of the staff members throughout the city, and know anywhere from one-third to one-half of the managers, many of who were in place when I held office as city councilman.

“My emphasis is to continue to talk to folks and met individually so I can get my arms around some of the main issues they are dealing with—the kinds of programs they’re most concerned about, because we know we could continue to have a challenging budget situation.”