Ann Burgman was a community icon
Funeral Service for Ann Burgman will be on Wednesday, June 23 beginning at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church in Lacey.
(Editors note: The following story appeared in the June 2010 edition of Ken’s Corner & The Real News. Ann died on June 12.)
In the early 60’s, Ann Burgman moved to Lacey with her young children and her husband Tim to engage in Tim’s family business funeral management.
She and Tim entered into the business with the Woodlawn Funeral Home and the Ruddell Road Pioneer Cemetery.
Lacey wasn’t a city but had aspirations of being a city. As a business owner, the advantages of a city were obvious and the Burgman’s joined in the infant movement to incorporate the area known as Lacey, into the city of Lacey.
Tim and Ann raised money, stuffed envelopes and knocked on doors in the effort to gain incorporation, and on the second try Lacey became an incorporated city by a vote of its people.
For a short time, Tim worked as the city clerk, but he and Ann settled down to raise a family and make their business a success.
Over the years the business expanded and over the years the Burgman’s encountered problems with city rules and regulations.
The city wanted part of the cemetery for road expansion, but because cemeteries can’t be taken by condemnation, the Burgman’s had the city over a barrel, or over a roadway project.
The problem was eventually settled in favor of the Burgman’s.
Then they had problems with the local air pollution authorities over smoke from the crematorium. Again the problem was settled, but not before the Burgman’s had to make expensive changes to their operation.
Over the years the city made significant decisions that negatively impacted business. New rules and regulations, a restrictive sign ordinance and a temporary utility tax to make repairs to Sleater Kinney, which became a permanent tax.
All of that was too much for the family and it was decided that someone would have to seek elective office – - and for various reasons, that duty fell upon Ann.
In 1992, Ann Burgman decided she was going to run for a seat on the Lacey City Council, and she was going to run against Kay Boyd, who was serving the city as mayor at that time.
“Why are you running against the mayor,” I asked her.
“Because I can beat her,” Ann said. “I can beat anyone currently on the council.”
That was a bravado that most people never saw. Ann had a good sense of herself and of her place in society. She knew her strengths and that always served her well..
It was her strengths that brought her victory. It was the first time in city history that an incumbent mayor was defeated. It wouldn’t happen again until last year.
Ann took her seat on the council, one dominated by public sector employees and retirees. As the lone business person on the council, Ann had a long way to go to make inroads into the city’s destructive policies towards business.
But she worked hard, did her homework and showed she had the ability to get along with everyone.
She was a big supporter of the Hawk’s Prairie Gateway project and saw that as the future of Lacey.
She had many successes. She eventually went on to head the air control authority, the agency which once had caused her problems. She also went on to serve as the city’s representative on many boards and commissions including the Intercity Transit Board.
She was a long time member of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce and attended almost all of the meetings. She was often the only elected official at those chamber meetings. Ann used to introduce herself, not as a member of the Lacey City Council, but as “your friendly undertaker.”
She was well-liked and well-respected by all of those who worked with her. That should have been enough. But it wasn’t.
One goal Ann wanted badly escaped her. She wanted to be the mayor of the City of Lacey.
Because the people didn’t elect the mayor, Ann couldn’t get the job that way. “If the mayor was an elected position, I could win,” she often said.
But the mayor’s job wasn’t up to a vote of the people. It was up to a vote of the council, and Ann could never round up enough votes to get the mayor’s appointment.
Part of it was because of Ann’s weaknesses.
She was not a good public speaker and in public she often appeared shy.
It was that lack of public accommodation that held her back from being selected as mayor.
But, she did achieve a measure of success in city government and served as the city’s deputy mayor.
She never had an easy campaign. While other members of the council often ran unopposed, Ann always had an opponent.
Because of her conservative viewpoint, local liberals were always trying to unseat her – - and they always lost.
She was right. She could beat anyone – - for a Lacey council seat, that is. An attempt to run for the state legislature as a Republican tripped her up and was the only race she ever lost.
` Parts of her private life have been made public, including problems she had with family members and the business.
But her biggest struggle was with cancer. She fought off a bout of cancer a decade ago, but the cancer came back.
In late 2008, she called me and asked me to inform the Lacey Rotary Club that she was fighting brain cancer.
That’s a battle she waged for more than 18 months. It confined her to a wheelchair, but up until recently she used her cell phone to keep in contact and to keep her hands in local politics.
Along with two other councilmembers, she was defeated for re-election in 2009.
Her last public appearance was at the annual Memorial Day celebration. Held annually at Woodlawn.
Lacey, as a city and as a community is better off because Ann Burgman chose to get involved in her community.
Business has never had a better city representative than Ann.