The rural south Thurston County town of Bucoda — population 562 — has made local election history.
In November’s general election, Bucoda Town Councilman Gary Givens became the first person in the county to ever win a race as a write-in candidate.
In the race for the open council position 3, Givens received 78 votes (about 64 percent of those cast) compared to Marcella Zengota, who received 44 votes. The Thurston County Elections office has confirmed that Givens is the county’s first winning write-in candidate.
Givens, a firefighter and EMT with Thurston County Fire districts 12 and 16, said he interacts regularly with the town’s residents. The election victory was a surprise, he said, but it confirmed that his run for council was the right thing to do.
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“You get a feel for what the people are thinking,” said Givens, who served on the council in 2011-12 and decided to run again after the candidate filing deadline. “You don’t just sit there and listen. You have to take action and do some of the things they want you to do.”
Givens was sworn in Nov. 24. While on the council, Givens said he will focus on supporting Bucoda amenities such as the community center, which hosts money-making events that include an annual haunted house. He said citizen involvement and volunteerism in all aspects of Bucoda life will ensure that the town survives.
“Unless the citizens of this town get involved, the community is going nowhere,” Givens said. “We have to work together. There’s no other way.”
Other priorities include finding ways to generate income for the cash-strapped town. Bucoda Mayor Alan Carr said Givens understands how the town functions when it comes to policies and pursuing grants. With no commercial or industrial tax base, Bucoda relies on state and federal grants for many of its critical infrastructure projects, including the upcoming Main Street elevation, which will protect properties from Skookumchuck River flooding.
As one of five town council members, Givens also is helping with an effort to transfer more authorization power to the town’s administrators. For example, a current town ordinance requires that residents who don’t pay their water bill must appear before the council to resolve the issue instead of working it out with the city.
“Gary is pretty knowledgeable about ordinances,” Carr said.