On a blue-skied Friday morning, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin sat in her office, gazing at the port that helps define her city. Though still in the thick of a global pandemic, Franklin expressed immense gratitude for calling this “resilient and strong” city home. “Even now, we can go out and touch the water,” she said. “When the sun comes up, this is the most beautiful place in the world.”

Franklin took office in January 2018, becoming the first woman elected mayor of Everett. She praises the big-city amenities and small-town feel of the city that has evolved from a mill town to a beautiful, innovative urban center.

Franklin’s team is working on getting a certified creative district to honor the city’s art, from COVID-era murals to venues like Black Lab Gallery and Village Theatre. “We need to talk about and celebrate it,” Franklin said. She mentioned another Everett perk, referencing former food trucks that have now opened brick-and-mortar spaces: “It’s a place where you can still make it.”

Many associate Everett with The Boeing Co., the state’s top employer, which relocated there in 1967 and boasts the largest manufacturing building in the world. The next top employers are the Providence Regional Medical Center and Naval Station Everett (NSE), followed by The Everett Clinic, Snohomish County Government, Everett School District, and Premera Blue Cross.

Not only is Everett’s naval station the country’s most modern shore installation, but it also is one of only two Navy-owned deep-water ports on the continental West Coast. Franklin explained that this uninhibited access to deep sea means destroyers can be deployed very quickly; they don’t have to wait for tides to change or bridges to be raised.

In 1983, Everett was selected (from among 13 ports) as a desirable location for the Navy’s Strategic Homeport Initiative. Former Washington Sen. Henry M. Jackson helped advocate for these plans. Construction began in November 1987, with the base opening for operations in April 1994.

Thousands of active and reserve military, as well as civil service personnel, are assigned to NSE and its tenant commands. These days, the station is home to Navy surface ships, as well as the active-duty command staffs for Carrier Strike Group 11 and Destroyer Squadron 9. The base also supports vessels belonging to the U.S. Coast Guard and occasionally Military Sealift Command supply vessels.

Kristin Ching, public affairs officer for NSE, explained the lineup. “At the moment, there are a total of seven Navy surface ships homeported in Everett, including the previous five destroyers and two cruisers — USS Chosin and USS Cape St. George — which the Navy shifted homeport to Everett during their scheduled maintenance period at a Seattle shipyard.” Within the next few years, other Navy ships will head toward the Pacific Northwest for extended maintenance, including USS John Paul Jones, USS John S. McCain, and USS McCampbell.

Economically, NSE is a major contributor to Snohomish County. It providing economic stimulus through a range of sectors, including stable employment, demand for housing and consumer products, expenditures for supplies and operational support service, and related economic activities.

Navy Region Northwest conducted an Economic Impact Assessment during fiscal year 2017. “Results in Snohomish County,” Ching said, “showed that NSE’s overall economic contribution is approximately $340 million in payroll, goods, services, and contracts. NSE also provides more than 4,000 jobs, including directly employed active military and civilian personnel.”

Franklin, who grew up in Eugene, Oregon, with a dad in the Navy, said sailors are so immersed in the Everett community, they blend in unless they’re in uniform. “It’s part of who we are,” she said, explaining that a sailor’s spouse could easily be your hairdresser or dentist. Not only does their presence generate jobs, but these residents give back in other ways.

“Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel serve in our military and in local communities where they live,” Ching said. “They become volunteer participants in local school and youth mentoring programs (particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects), cleanup and restoration of public spaces, and partnerships with nonprofit organizations.“

Ching explained that building good relationships within the local community helps support the station’s overall aims.

“We are fortunate to be a part of a welcoming community that supports the (station) and the broader national defense mission. Base partnerships include local law enforcement and emergency responders in mutual aid,” Ching said. “The Navy is also dedicated to coordinating with tribal, state, federal, and community stakeholders to ensure responsible growth and development, while being good stewards of our natural resources.”

Franklin said she appreciates all the Navy does to promote sustainability — prioritizing healthy water, air quality, and marine life. “They have done an amazing job to protect the environment,” she said.

Franklin shared that NSE is often referred to as “the sailor’s choice.” Not only do those based here fall in love with the region’s enticing climate and natural beauty; they also feel warmly accepted by the community. “We love our sailors,” Franklin said. “We embrace them.”