Five elected officials gathered Wednesday for a State of the Community address to the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, talking about recent accomplishments in their respective jurisdictions as well as answering specific questions about the future.
One key question was raised by forum moderator Mike Marohn, owner of radio station KRXY 94.5 FM: How are we going to collaborate on a regional basis to promote our shared Thurston County goals?
But the willingness to collaborate wasn’t entirely clear on Wednesday at the event at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia. Amid the jurisdictional discussions there was plenty of “friendly rivalry” in the air.
Some might even call it not so friendly.
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“Let’s keep it nice,” Marohn told the panel of speakers at one point.
Speaking Wednesday were Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero, Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder, Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, Yelm Mayor Ron Harding, and Tumwater Mayor Pro Tem Neil McClanahan.
The forum was divided into opening remarks, moderator questions, and closing remarks, then Marohn recapped the afternoon discussion.
After Selby and Romero gave their opening remarks, Harding set the not-so-friendly tone by saying, “I knew two women would take too long.”
Friendly and not-so-friendly comments peppered the discussion, such as Selby referring to Ryder as her “younger brother.” She acknowledged that comment as an inside joke because he has referred to her as his “older sister.”
The five also were asked a question about their approaches to economic development, including hiring their own economic development officials.
“You might as well start with the city that did it first,” said Ryder to the moderator, eliciting groans from the audience.
Selby explained that the city recently hired Renee Sunde from the Thurston Economic Development Council to be Olympia’s economic development official.
Harding added: “I haven’t stolen anybody’s staff.”
McClanahan apologized to Selby for bringing a Toyota dealership to Tumwater from the Olympia Auto Mall.
But those in the audience thought it was nothing more than friendly competition. “It’s good,” said Marohn after the forum. “Competition helps you get better.”
Anchor Bank employee Melissa Stone, who has attended the State of the Community address before, said the current elected officials are the most collaborative group that she has seen in years.
“They’re on the same page,” she said, adding that hasn’t always been the case. She said she is grateful the “torch was passed with fresh ideas.”
Cliff and Terriann Hawkeswood, who own a local business called Phone Master, described the meeting as very collaborative with a competitiveness they called “brotherly, sisterly.”
“The county as a whole is well represented,” Terriann Hawkeswood said.