Longtime leader faces newcomer in Lacey

City Council Position 7 race between 3-time mayor Virgil Clarkson and first-time candidate Walker Morton

rboone@theolympian.comOctober 24, 2013 

The Lacey City Council Position 7 race pits incumbent Virgil Clarkson against newcomer Walker Morton, who says it is time for a change.

“I think he has served his time, and I thank him for that and wish him well, but he has been there too long,” said Morton, 59.

“It’s time to bring some new blood, new eyes, and a new vision that can relate to the generation that is moving into Lacey.”

But Clarkson, 81, a three-time mayor who has served on the council just shy of 16 years, said there still is work to be done.

The city does not elect a mayor; one is appointed from the council.

Morton, who has lived in Lacey off and on since 1995, has worked in corrections for almost 40 years, both in the military and as a civilian. He works as a transitional counselor at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, helping offenders return to the community.

Morton was the superintendent at Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake. He was on hand when it was closed in 2010, he said.

“Running a prison is like being the mayor of a small community because you work with people who look to you for decision-making and direction,” said Morton, who is running for public office for the first time.

Here are some of Morton’s goals for the city, if elected:

 • Open a “welcome center” in Lacey that would serve newcomers to the city, particularly those who are active duty or recently discharged from the military, so they could get one-stop information about the community.

 • Recruit and scrutinize businesses that come to Lacey, making sure they provide family-wage jobs and other benefits.

 • Address traffic congestion through infrastructure improvements that accommodate growth.

 • Be more transparent, making sure to serve the people and not the council.

Clarkson also wants to do more to stimulate the economy in hopes of retaining more young people who otherwise have to leave the area to find work.

“We have wonderful schools, public and private, but they graduate, and off they go,” he said.

Before joining the council, Clarkson was a manager for the state Department of Transportation for 32 years.

Clarkson, too, wants to bring more family-wage jobs to Lacey, as well as improve transportation and make sure the city’s senior population gets the housing, transportation and amenities it needs, he said.

South Puget Sound Community College is set to move its Lacey campus on Marvin Road to Rowe Six, a development on Sixth Avenue near Woodland Square Loop. Clarkson said he wants to work closely with all involved — the city, the college and business leaders — to ensure that it comes to fruition not only for the college, but that it stimulates activity at Woodland Square Loop, known for its number of vacant buildings.

“It’s accomplishable, but I want to make sure it’s accomplished,” Clarkson said.

He also is concerned that the city could grow through annexations, but Clarkson said he is not convinced that is the right move for the city right now, raising the potential for city services and finances to be stretched too thin.

“We are not ready as a jurisdiction for that kind of move,” he said, adding that veteran leadership will be needed to address the wisdom of whether to annex.

Morton has raised about $5,600 for his campaign, with top contributions coming from labor groups, state Public Disclosure Commission data show. Clarkson has raised about $6,700, PDC data show, although donors were not disclosed, likely because he has opted to raise a limited amount of money through mini-reporting.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com

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