Hyer did the right thing by stepping down

Olympia City Councilman Joe Hyer officially resigned at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Earlier in the week Hyer withdrew his name from consideration for appointment as Thurston County treasurer.

These were not easy decisions, but they were the right decisions on Hyer’s part. He can now deal with the three felony drug charges filed against him as a private citizen, out of the public spotlight.

Hyer, 37, has been serving on the council under a dark cloud since Feb. 18 when he was arrested on suspicion of selling marijuana to a confidential informant. Hyer was subsequently charged by Thurston County prosecutors with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana and two counts of unlawful delivery of marijuana. A trial has been scheduled for May.

The arrest derailed Hyer’s once promising political career. He was re-elected to a four year term on the Olympia Council last November and when Thurston County Treasurer Robin Hunt announced plans to vacate her office shortly after the first of the year, Hyer quickly became the Democratic party’s top choice to replace her.

In fact, Thurston County commissioners were so eager to get Hyer appointed to the job, they had already selected – although not officially named – Hyer to the post when he was arrested and charged with the three drug counts.

Commissioners quickly retreated, saying there was little likelihood they could appoint Hyer to the job given his legal problems. Not only had Hyer embarrassed himself, he had embarrassed commissioners, too.

Hunt came to the commissioners’ rescue, saying she would continue to work part time as treasurer until a temporary replacement could be appointed. Last week, Hyer officially announced that he will not be a candidate for the treasurer’s post this fall.

Commissioners appointed Steve Larson, a systems manager in the treasurer’s office to the top job. And they have once again asked the county Democratic Party to send them three names of people interested in serving as interim treasurer until this fall’s election.

Five individuals have announced interest in running for the treasurer’s post this fall.

With Hyer out of the running for treasurer, the unanswered question was how long he would continue to hold on to his seat on the Olympia City Council. The answer came Friday evening with a press release from his campaign office announcing Hyer’s plan to step down at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

“For fourteen years, I have worked through my role in the private sector to build a stronger and better community for us all,” said Hyer, who with his family owns three businesses in downtown Olympia.

“For the last five and a half years, I have worked arduously on those same goals as a councilmember, having been honored to be appointed and then twice elected by the citizens of Olympia.

“Eventually, we all make mistakes. While I have had many successes in life, I have also had my share of mistakes. Recently, I made a singular error in judgment that has been horribly detrimental to my family, friends, and this community. While I have been humbled by the support that has been offered me, I nonetheless must take ownership of my mistakes, and there are no words that can express how sorry I am.

“At this time, however, I must leave public life, and focus on my own health,” Hyer said in his statement.

He had previously said he suffers from chronic insomnia.

Hyer pleaded innocent to three drug felonies on March 9, and his attorney suggested in a court filing that “a trusted political mentor” of Hyer’s entrapped him.

Stepping down from the council and withdrawing from the treasurer’s race were difficult decisions, we are sure. But Hyer understands that he faces serious felony charges and up to six months in jail if convicted of all three.

It’s far better that he deal with those allegations, and tend to his health, as a private citizen out of the glare of the public spotlight.

After he has put all this behind him, we’re confident that Hyer will re-engage and be involved in bettering his community.

It’s in his nature.

But for the time being his voice has been lost and that is a sad moment for many in the community.

But now county commissioners can get on with their process of naming an interim treasurer and the Olympia City Council can take the time necessary to appoint someone to take Hyer’s seat at the council table. It’s best for all concerned to move forward and put this ugly chapter in community political life to rest.