OLYMPIA - Members of the downtown business community said Saturday that they support Olympia City Councilman Joe Hyer and were unwilling to pass judgment on him until more is known about his alleged sale of marijuana to a confidential informant.
The alleged sale led to his arrest Thursday night, and by Friday Hyer had announced that he plans to take a leave of absence from the council seat he won by a wide margin in the November election. Hyer returned a call to The Olympian on Saturday but declined to comment, based on the advice of counsel. His arrest also raises doubts about whether he can become Thurston County’s next treasurer. Hyer also co-owns The Alpine Experience and Olympic Outfitters, both downtown.
Although Hyer’s political future is not clear, some members of the downtown business community said they don’t think the arrest will have too negative an effect on his businesses or his role as a supporter and booster of downtown.
Olympia Downtown Association board president Jeanne Carras described Hyer as a friend and said she was “aching for Joe and his family” and “what they are going through.”
“I’m shocked,” Carras said. “I don’t know what to think, and I’m not going to think anything until we have all the facts.”
Carras recalled that Hyer worked hard to market downtown to businesses after the Fourth Avenue Bridge was damaged in the Nisqually Earthquake and also chose to move The Alpine Experience downtown from the city’s west side.
“I don’t want to see all the good things he’s done for the community get destroyed,” she said.
Former City Council member and Capital Playhouse founder Jeff Kingsbury questioned whether Hyer even would be charged.
“He has the opportunity to continue in public service if this were all to be resolved,” he said. Kingsbury added that Hyer has been a giant advocate for downtown and a supporter of a range of positive things, including athletics and the arts.
“His two businesses are important parts of our downtown business community,” Kingsbury said.
Olympic Wine Merchant owner Patrick Hub said he was surprised by the marijuana-selling allegation and also thinks there is more to his arrest than meets the eye.
“He has really been an asset for the city and downtown, and the vast majority of people looked at him the same way,” he said. “Joe is a very smart guy. It doesn’t mean you can’t be smart and not have a blind spot, but he was very astute politically and not the kind of person who is going to put his career and reputation at stake.”
David Myhre, who was out for a walk Saturday near Hyer’s house on Legion Way, said marijuana shouldn’t be the one thing that puts Hyer’s political future in jeopardy.
Myhre also said he voted for Tony Sermonti in the November election, the man who lost to Hyer.
“If it was heroin, it might be a different conversation,” Myhre said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403