Like many people who reside outside of the city of Cosmopolis, I have never had the occasion to meet with Grays Harbor County commissioner candidate and current Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines.
Sure, we have all heard the name, mostly associated with the work she has done in regard to state and local flood-control issues that affect all of us on the Harbor. She has been involved in city government in one form or another for going on 16 years. In Harbor political years, that is a very long time.
I knew several weeks ago that I would be meeting with her and wanted to spend a little time talking to people; sort of get the gist of the public. I went where I always go to get answers. I hung around the gas station.
It didn’t surprise me that everyone seemed to know of her.
As I mentioned, 16 years is a long time to be politically active around here. Some thought she was a very effective politician. Others had axes to grind over some of her political career choices mostly concerning the actions on various decisions concerning the flood-control issues. All, however, gave her high marks for shepherding the city of Cosmopolis through the “great recession.” It’s about the mix of opinions you would expect on someone in a prominent public position.
Frankly, I would be more worried if there wasn’t a segment that disagreed with her on issues here and there. It shows that the politician is doing their job.
Our meeting went on for an hour in which time we discussed her background, vision, and a bit of politics focusing on specific public policy. I really wasn’t interested in all that though. I was interested in Vickie Raines.
I began by asking about possibly the two largest events that will end up shaping her legacy in Cosmopolis. First, the devastating loss caused by Weyerhaeuser when they closed the pulp mill and the economic impact on the community.
I doubt outside of Detroit, any mayor has faced such a loss of economy in proportion to the population of the city. Her response took me aback a bit.
Raines didn’t animate the scope of the problem, just outlined the critical steps needed to be taken to get through the crisis and keep the city lights on, workmanish in her approach to complex public policy decisions. To illustrate, I call attention to one of the solutions that I feel noteworthy.
Seeing the financial ground falling beneath the feet of the city, Raines called a meeting with her police department. At the time, it was a public employee union.
Remarkably, the police department disbanded the union during the time of financial crisis for the good of the city. Remarkable, in my opinion. I might call attention to recent events here in Montesano where the members of our own local employee union refused to even apologize for wasting upward of 8,000 hours of public time, even threatening the city with a $40,000 bill to suspend them for a couple of days.
Of course, once the severity of the crisis passed, the police re-organized, and as Raines related, all but one of the police officers are still with the city.
About this time, she started to really get my attention.
She related other incidents that both the city of Cosmopolis and her position as mayor faced. The public voted down a tax increase, causing an even further tightening of the financial belt. More. I kept envisioning a ship at sea during a heavy storm, with Vickie lashed to a mast cursing at the waves and wind refusing to scuttle the city.
It isn’t any wonder to me why I was hearing the one consistant adjective used to describe her. “Tough”.
I asked Raines about that perception, she is aware of it. This is one of those times that I have to check myself. I wonder if I would have even brought it up if I was talking to a male candidate? I personally admire all three of our current commissioners exactly for being “tough.” Still, in my opinion, it’s something us older folk here on the Harbor carry around with us. The younger ones with a different culture aren’t carrying our preconceived cultural baggage.
I came away from the meeting thinking Vickie Raines would be a fine addition to the commission — if for no other reason than her ability to manage things. She doesn’t seem to be driven by ideology or ego. The term I would use is pragmatic.
It is early in the election season. I realize this column may ring as an endorsement. I was impressed with her, I admit it.
Others will be announcing soon. I will be more than happy to write on encounters with them if given the opportunity and just may like them better. I try to keep my voting options open and live by the rule. Never fall in love with a politician. They will only break your heart.
Tom Frederiksen grew up in Montesano and lives here today with an active blog at montesanotoday.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.