Lacey Civic Committee

August 9th, 2017 by Ken

 (Editors note:  It took many people working together to make Lacey the community it is today.  This is one of the chapters in my book about that struggle and the people who made it happen.)

It was one of my great ideas that actually bore fruit.  The idea of the Lacey Civic Committee grew right out of my own thoughts.  I felt Lacey needed an organization which would be able to tackle large projects.  While the service clubs were doing a good job, sometimes something more encompassing was needed.  Hence, the Lacey Civic Committee.

It was 1975, when Bob Wark approached me.  Bob was working as the public relations director for the Washington State Community College System.  I knew Bob from the Lacey Rotary Club.

Bob said that the Green River Community College had a performing group which was traveling around the state putting on performances.  They were willing to come to Thurston County but any money raised from their performance had to go to a Bicentennial project.

The nation’s Bicentennial was two years away and as far as I could tell, no one in our area seemed to be doing anything particular.  We decided to get a committee together and see if there was any interest in proceeding.   Bob sent out letters to all of the service clubs in the Lacey area inviting them to participate in the project.

I contacted the Lacey Area Chamber of Commerce and asked them if they’d be interested in participating.  We set the first meeting on Friday at noon at the Red Bull Restaurant.  We weren’t sure who would show.

That first meeting found Bob and myself sitting at the middle table in the Red Bull dinning room waiting.  Ann Mayse came representing the Lacey Chamber.  Ann was a military wife, the wife of Lt. Col. Harvey Mayse.  She was active in the Republican party and volunteered at the Lacey chamber office.    Soon Neil Good from the Lacey Sunrise Lions Club showed followed shortly by Jim Sheerer and Walt Schefter from the Lacey Kiwanis Club and Gene Dolan from the North Thurston Kiwanis Club.    Neil Good was the Lacey Fire Chief while Walt Schefter was an attorney in private practice.  Jim Sheerer was the manager of Pay N Save our local drug store.   Gene Dolan was a retired banker and had also served as president of the Lacey Chamber and a short stint as its executive director. Our group was set – – for now.

We talked about projects and decided that we should help establish a community identity by creating a “Welcome to Lacey” sign.  We kicked around several locations and settled on a location between South Sound Center and Interstate Five on Sleater-Kinney.

The Green River Community College performed to a small crowd, but now we had a small nest egg and were on our way.  We contacted South Sound Center and asked for permission to build the sign.  After several weeks we received word that the property we wanted didn’t belong to Capital Development but to Sears.  We wrote a letter to Sears asking permission to build a sign on their property.  Several months passed before we received a letter back from them stating “We don’t think it’s our property, but if it is, you can’t build on it.”

Because we liked each other so much we kept meeting during the long wait for an answer.  We debated issues of the day, talked about events affecting Lacey and even came up with a name for our group – – the Lacey Civic Committee.   Walt Schefter found it difficult to make all of the meetings but came to a few.  His place was taken by John Mangham a member of the Lacey Sunrise Lion’s Club.   John was retired, and while I never really understood what he was retired from, he continued to manage some family property.

Nearly a year passed when we finally realized the property was owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation.  We contacted them and asked for permission.  It took some government paperwork but the land was transferred to the City of Lacey which gave us permission to do the work.

We talked to local businesses to get work done.  Jon Powell, the owner of the local John Deere franchise agreed to grade the property.  We had others who agreed to do the cement work and we got Bob Bright, owner of Nu Dor in Lacey to get us the flag poles.

He ordered the three poles from Taiwan.  The freighter carrying the poles sunk and so he ordered another set.  Several months passed before they arrived.

The Bicentennial passed as well, and we were still working on our Bicentennial project.

Volunteers from the Lacey Rotary Club and the Lacey Sunrise Lions clubs pitched in and put in a sprinkler system.  The two groups worked hand in hand to landscape the property.

Everything was set, but we had a problem.  What was going to go on the three flagpoles.  We agreed on the national flag and the state flag but couldn’t determine what to put on the third.   I suggested a city flag.  Since we had no city flag I designed one.  I put the city logo on a field of white and sent it off to the city for approval.  They did.

Thus the Lacey Civic Plaza was built.  On a wet and rainy day in 1978, the plaza was dedicated, the first project for the Lacey Civic Committee.

During the time we were working on the civic plaza we continued to meet weekly.  At one of our Friday meetings it was announced that the City of Lacey was considering an ordinance requiring property and business owners to landscape their property and businesses.  I suggested that perhaps there was a better way of encouraging beautification.

I proposed that we create an award which would be given to businesses and individuals who “made Lacey a better and more attractive place in which to live,” to use a carrot instead of a city stick.  I suggested we call it the Community Improvement Award.  Bob Wark thought it was a great idea and approached the Lacey Rotary Club to act as hosts.  We gave the award for several years, always at a Lacey Rotary Club meeting.  Eventually the Lacey Rotary Club took over the award and later renamed it the Ron Rowe Community Improvement Award.  Ron had been a longtime community activist and served as president of the Lacey Rotary Club and of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce.

Once the Civic Plaza project was completed we continued to meet, keeping our eyes open for another project.  It didn’t take long before the next project came before us.

Denise Fuchs was working as an intern for the City of Lacey doing historical compilation for the city.  One day she approached me and wanted to talk about the old Lacey City Hall.  Fuchs said that the Lacey Fire District had bought the property and was going to tear down the old building.  She thought it should be saved.

I thought she was right.

I brought the matter to the Lacey Civic Committee and they agreed.  So began our third and largest project.

We managed to get the fire district to agree to postpone demolition of the old house while we looked for possible alternatives.  Someone, and to this day I’m not sure just who, approached the Lacey Women’s Club and asked them to donate a portion of their property on Lacey Street on which we could move the old city hall. The property was only a couple of hundred yards away from the site on Pacific Avenue and would be the perfect location.

With some stipulations, the Lacey Women’s Club agreed to donate the property.  We got Rainier House Movers to move the two-story building and on August 30, 1979 the building moved to its current location behind the Lacey Women’s Club house.

Now came the hard part. Turning the old house into a museum.  Many Rotarians and Lion Club members donated money, material and help.  Foremost among those were John Mangham, from the Lacey Sunrise Lions, who oversaw the entire project and put a good deal of his own money into the renovation.

One Friday noon, Bill Bergquist came to our meeting.  Bill was a Lacey Rotarian and on the board of  CETA  (Community Employment Training Act, a federal program) and let us know that money was available to train students in building and construction.  With his help I wrote a grant to CETA for $35,000.  The grant was approved.

John Mangham went to work, supervising the students and spending a great deal of his time at the site.   Through my Rotary contacts I got Pete Fleutsch from Sunset Air to donate and install a furnace.   On October 26, 1980, the Lacey Historical Museum was opened.

After those three projects, the Lacey Civic Committee slowly faded away.  In the 1990’s it rose one more time when the City of Lacey was looking at building a bandstand in Huntamer Park.  Using the Lacey Civic Plaza name and letterhead we solicited private funds to help build the bandstand.  With volunteer help from the Olympia Master Builders the bandstand was completed. That was the last gasp for the Lacey Civic Committee.





Posted in History, The Real News

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