Like the cat

December 4th, 2017 by Ken

We got a cat

An indoors cat

Her world is confined to the house

to those rooms which we let her enter.

It’s a small world

but she makes the most of it.

Snooping in the corners,

climbing on top of everything

Anything new in the house is met with her attention.

Around it, on top of it, inside it – when she can

She notes when anything is different in her world.

I guess I’m kind of like the cat

Except my world is a little larger.

I note when something is different in my world.

Then, like the cat, I climb on top of it, go around it and climb inside of it.

Except I do it with my mind, with my attention to detail, with my sense of curiosity – just like the cat

Except my world’s a little bigger.

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Who’s next

November 29th, 2017 by Ken

As of this posting, November 29, 2017, at 11:30 am – – Garrison Keillor joins Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose as the latest man to fall to the national mania sweeping the country.

Every powerful man in the country should be looking over his shoulder and examining his history – – going back 40 years – – to see if there is something that can qualify for “sexual harassment” in his back ground.

The game now is to see who will be the next powerful man to fall.

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On the horns of a dilemma

November 28th, 2017 by Ken

I’m on the horns of a dilemma (whatever that means).

I spent 10 months running for a seat on the Lacey City Council because I believed that Lacey residents and Lacey taxpayers were being ill-served by the dozen of regional boards and commissions serving the city.  I believed that current members of the Lacey council either didn’t know or didn’t care about the “Olympia-centric” bent of these boards and how Olympia is more important than Lacey.

I was also concerned that in the drive towards regionalization of local issues – –  Lacey is being left out in the cold.  Remember that three sitting members of the Lacey council have businesses in Olympia.

So – here’s my dilemma.

How can I continue to criticize the current Lacey council and their apparent lack of concern for Lacey – – without looking vindictive or petty?

If you have an answer, email me at or call me at 360-456-8964.  I need your advice.

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I was investigated for President Kennedy’s assassination

November 22nd, 2017 by Ken

It was November 22, 1963.  I was at my mom’s house in Tumwater.  It was my 21st birthday, and I was on leave from the US Army, where I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

I always tried to take leave on my birthday – and the 21st birthday seemed to be something special.

Like everyone else, I was watching the television news in Dallas about the assassination of President Kennedy when a car pulled up in the driveway and two men in suits came to the door.  I answered the door, and one of them said, “Are you PFC Balsley.”  I answered yes and then he said, “We heard you have made threats against the president’s life, and we just wanted to check on where your were.”

Lets digress back a year, back to October 1962.  At that time I was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne division and we had just been sent to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida to be ready to invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Now, I had no ill-feelings towards the Cubans or to Fidel Castro – – but many young men in my unit did.   My company had several young Cubans, who had been involved in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  They had been captured by Castro and later ransomed by the United States government.  They had joined the 101st because they wanted to get back to Cuba and kill Fidel.

It seemed the time had come.   We were preparing for the jump and the invasion of that island nation.

Then, President Kennedy called the invasion off.  They were disappointed and so was I.  As a gung ho, brash 19-year old, I wanted to see action.

Fast forward now to November 21, 1963.  I was now stationed at Ft. Lewis.  My birthday was the next day and I was going on leave to celebrated it with the family.  At that time, you could go on leave at midnight.   I was sitting around the barracks with several of the guys and we got to talking politics.  When the subject of President Kennedy came up, I made an off-handed remark – – something to the effect that “Kennedy ought to be shot” for calling off the invasion.

I went on leave at midnight, and that day, November 22, my 21st birthday, he was shot.

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Christmas is missing

November 20th, 2017 by Ken

Oh – you can tell it’s Christmas.  The signs are everywhere.  Stores are decked out in all their Christmas finery and Christmas carols are omnipresent.

But, if you look at the North Thurston school district calendar, you can’t find Christmas listed  anywhere.  You can find Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and dozens of other holidays, but you won’t find Christmas.  The district says it doesn’t list any religious holidays on its school calendar.

In this era of political correctness and the all inclusive embrace, it would seem odd not to find a holiday on the school calendar that is celebrated by 80 percent of Americans, by a similar percentage of European immigrants and even in Asian countries such as Korea and Japan.

I understand the need of the school district to be cognizant of the feelings of all of the people it serves – – but to leave Christmas off the school calendar just seems one step too far.

While Christmas does have religious roots, it has become so non-secular, that Santa, Rudolf, and the Grinch, have become more representative of the day, than does Jesus and his birth.

The district is not getting much negative feedback on leaving Christmas off its calendar – but it’s just another example of how close we are to falling off the cliff of irrelevancy as a unified country.

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Where’s my Train Depot replica

November 16th, 2017 by Ken

Several years  before the City of Lacey’s 50th Birthday Celebration in 2016, the city was looking for a project that would reflect the city’s history.

A new museum for Lacey was the main subject of conversation and the decision was made to begin the process.  A planning team was gathered and the final determination was to build a replica of the Lacey Train Depot which would house the museum..   The depot connected Lacey to the world and helped give Lacey a sense of community.

The city manager and the mayor were on board and planning began for the building and its interior.   Funding would be a major issue, but plans were proposed to start a fund-raising campaign.   The kickoff for the fund raiser could be a “Mayor’s Gala”.  The event would be part of the city’s 50th birthday celebration.  Money raised at the event would begin the drive to get the money and get the project started.

The city spent nearly a million dollars to buy the old carpet warehouse on Lacey Blvd as the site of a new city museum and community center.   Then, money raised at the Mayor’s Gala was decided to fund operation of the new Lacey Veteran Service Hub, a major priority for the city.

The museum within the Train Deport was determined to be non-workable and was placed down the list of priorities.  When the estimated cost of the project came out significantly higher than thought, the city took a look at how to lower the cost..

One suggestion was to build  only the exterior of the building. with a public restroom.  Since its location is on the Woodland Trail, the building is now considered a “trail amenity”.

The city is going out to bid in a few weeks.   If the bids come back at a price the city can afford, then construction will start next summer.  Maybe the Lacey Train Depot replica can be dedicated on December 5, the 52nd birthday of the city.

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Politics isn’t local anymore

November 10th, 2017 by Ken

The old saying, that all politics is local, is not true anymore.

What determines elections at the local, state and national election these days is “The Trump Effect.”

Republicans lost statewide seats for governor and state seats for congress, in many elections around the country that pundits say they should have won.  But its not just state and national elections, the “Trump Effect” also affected county and local elections this year.

In Olympia, at last count two-term councilmember Jannine Roe lost her seat to a more radical opponent.  Moderate Allen Miller lost his race to a similar opponent.

In the Port of Olympia race, longtime incumbent Bill McGregor barely squeaked by to re-election, while EJ Zita trounced her moderate opponent Gigi McClure.

And, of course, in my race for the Lacey City Council , I  lost to Carolyn Cox by a significant margin.

I should have seen it coming.  I doorbelled more than 1200 homes in Lacey.  Not many people asked questions, but those that did had one question they almost always asked – – “Are you a Republican or Democrat” and “Did you vote for Trump?”

Politics isn’t local anymore.


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Lacey Fire District needs better advice

November 8th, 2017 by Ken

(Editor’s note:  Last minute counts show that the  Fire District validated its needed 40 percent by 136 votes)

This is for Jim)

So, the Lacey Fire District decided to put its nearly $20 million dollar bond issue on the recent General Election ballot knowing that voters in the district almost always support more money for the heroes that save their lives on a daily basis.

However, they either forgot, nor had no concern over the fact, that bond issues, other than with schools, require a voter turnout percentage of more than 40 percent. to validate the bonds.    They got around 30 percent turnout.  The bond issue failed to be ratified.

Who were their political strategists?   They would have told the district that you don’t put up a bond issue that needs a 40 percent turnout from the last general election, when that general election is a presidential election.  Presidential elections always have the largest turnout of voters, making the 40 percent thresh hold difficult to overcome.

I suspect district leaders wanted to save a little money by running the bond issue with other local jurisdictions.  They saved a few thousand dollars in cost.   But, they failed.  And now they have to run the ballot measure again – – next year.  But, this time they only have to get 40 percent of the average 30 percent turnout of this general election.

It’s sure to pass next year, but now they have to pay all of the cost of the election themselves.   Lacey fire commissioners need better advisors – or need to listen to them.

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Our brush with the Las Vegas infamy

October 2nd, 2017 by Ken

Jan and I were in Las Vegas, Sunday night – the ending of a long weekend.  We were staying at Caesar’s Palace and took a taxi to the Rio to see Penn & Teller – our last show before heading home early Monday morning.

After leaving the performance we were waiting outside in the Taxi line along with dozens of others.  The taxis seemed to be coming very slowly.  One stopped and said that the police had shut down Las Vegas Boulevard.   He wasn’t sure that he could get us to Caesars but would try the back way.

It was while getting into the taxi that I heard the sound.   The sound of sirens, hundreds of them.   Police vehicles of all sorts, fire department equipment, medic vans, ambulances – – all were filling the area with sirens.   It was the only sound you could hear.

The driver took the back roads and got us to our hotel.  We noticed that the lot was filled with taxis and none of them moving.  They had no place to go.  the roads were blocked.   Entering our hotel, we saw people apparently going about their own business, only slightly aware of the actions outside.

We went to our room and turned on the television.   Local Las Vegas stations were reporting on the slaughter.  Two were killed and a dozen wounded.  Then 20 were dead and a hundred wounded,   Ambulances and medic vans were full and the hospitals were over-flowing with wounded.  Some were being transported  in private cars.

Then came the news that there may have been two or more shooters and no one was certain where they were.   Swat teams were searching all of the hotels for the other suspects.

Caesar’s is several blocks from Mandalay Bay and the site of the massacre, but police agencies weren’t certain that all of the killers had been caught.

Then came the news that McCarran Airport was closed and no planes were taking off or landing.  McCarran is right across from the site of the shootings.   Many people, fleeing the carnage entered the airport and took shelter behind some of the buildings on the property.

We were scheduled to fly back home Monday at 6 a.m.   We weren’t certain that we could even make it to the airport if they re-opened.  We talked about staying at our hotel another night.   Jan called down to registration and after 10 minutes on hold determined to go back downstairs.

At the bottom level, hundreds of casino customers and hotel guest were milling around, unable to understand what was happening.  We walked into the main registration area – – and there was no one around.  No hotel or casino staff.   No clerks, no waiters, even no janitors.   They were all missing.  What had taken their place was dozens of armed police and security agents.   They had blocked all the doors to Caesar’s and weren’t letting anyone in or out.

Soon, someone who looked as it he were in charge began ordering all guests and customers to the back of the hotel, in an area where “they would be safe”.   We found out later that all staff had been trained to go to a shelter in the hotel in the event of an active shooter.  Jan and I went back to our room and watched the events unfolding live on local television.   We called and texted family members to let them know where we were and that we were safe.

We still hoped to make it to our flight on Monday.  We packed, got about two hours of sleep and woke up at 3:30 am ready to leave for the airport.   We didn’t know if it was open.   We didn’t know if we could get a taxi.   We didn’t know if all of the shooters had been found – – but we learned the death toll was significantly higher.

We carried our bags down and got in the taxi line at the hotel.   All we saw were about a half dozen police vehicles and some private cars (we assumed were Lyft or Uber.)   The taxi line was short but taxis were in short supply.   Eventually some came by and we managed to get a ride to the airport at 4:30 am.  We shared the taxi with a man from New York who told us his story.  He had been in one of the casinos playing blackjack.   He said he was about a thousand dollars ahead, when everyone started running.   He picked up his chips and joined them – – running.   He didn’t know why and he didn’t know where – – but everyone was running and he did too.

We made it to the airport, checked in and got through security all in about 20 minutes.   There weren’t many people flying out and there weren’t many people working the check in or the security line.

As I sat at the airport waiting for our plane to fly us back to SeaTac, I began to relax.  Then I felt great sorrow.   I think it was what the people in the air during 9-11 thought when they were grounded and safe on land.   The event was so massive that the problems we faced were insignificant.  I began to think about the people actually killed or wounded.  I thought about their families and I thought about the great sadness that was just beginning to sweep our country.

We heard many first hand stories from some of the people who were at the concert and now at the airport.  One young man had very little clothing and was covered up with blood.   He told his girl friend from his phone (we all over-heard) of his ordeal.   A young woman was shoeless.  She had lost them running away at the concert.   An older woman gave her the shoes she was wearing, then put on another pair from her carry-on.

Sometimes, we get so over-whelmed by our own problems associated with great disasters, that it’s only when we feel safe and secure that our minds let us focus on others.   Maybe not.   Maybe it’s just the way I cope.

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September 1962 – I was there

September 12th, 2017 by Ken

It was September 1962.   I was a young 19-year old solider stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

I had come from the Lilly white Pacific Northwest, and had not even seen a black person until I joined the Army upon high school graduation in 1960.

We had heard about the problems in the South over integration so when the word came down that the 101st Airborne was being sent to Oxford, Mississippi to relieve the Federal Marshals supporting James Meredith’s entry into the University of Mississippi, we weren’t surprised.   Five years previously, the 101st had been sent to Little Rock, Arkansas to help integrate Central High School.

But, this was my first official venture with this historical outfit and so it was with a great deal of excitement as I boarded one of the trucks making the several hundred mile drive from Kentucky to Mississippi.

Our 30-hour trip was marked with new sights, sounds and experiences.  Several of our trucks were stoned as the convoy made its way through the small towns of the South.  One was hit by a Molotov cocktail and set afire.  All along the route, the Confederate battle flag was flying and several car loads of white youths sped in and out of the convoy in an attempt to cause an accident and stop the trucks from getting to their destination.

We drove slowly through Oxford, past the University of Mississippi and out the other side, eventually stopping at what I think was an old national guard post.  There we set up tents and made camp.

The next morning, all of the black soldiers were separated from the white soldiers.  The black soldiers were sent to do KP and other house keeping activities, while the white soldiers drilled in crowd control.  There was much anger and animosity on the part of the black soldiers for being separated, but those in command thought that black soldiers on the front lines might infuriate the white mob even more.

We drilled for several days awaiting our opportunity to head to the campus and to duty, but it never came.  We heard that just the show of strength by armed forces was enough to stop the riot and that political pressure ended the struggle.

We were reunited with the black soldiers and sent back by truck to our home base of Fort Campbell.

But, in less than a month, we would be called back to duty, this time to Florida to get ready to invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis – – but that’s another story for another day.

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Renee Sunde leaves Olympia job for another

August 22nd, 2017 by Ken

Renee Sunde, the economic development director for the City of Olympia has been hired to be the new President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association (WRA).   Sunde told city officials the news on Tuesday.

She replaces Jan Teague who is retiring after leading the state’s largest retail organization for more than 19 years.  “Jan has done an incredible job for the Association and WRA is well-respected by everyone,” Sunde said.

Sunde was hired for her Olympia job  two years ago after working for the Economic Development Council.  The move to Olympia was indicative that the City of Olympia was serious about economic development.   “Across the board, the city and the council have been supportive of our economic goals,” Sunde said.  “I’ve received nothing but support from Olympia leaders.”

But, Sunde also pointed out that economic development for Olympia is a challenge.  “The community has a wide variety of interests,” she said.

Sunde said her decision to leave her current job was an opportunity to step up to working at the state level.  The WRA represents more than 3500 store fronts statewide and manages an industrial insurance program for members.  “It’s not hard for me to understand the significance that retail has for this state and to what WRA does to represent those interests.” she said.

Sunde will leave her Olympia job mid-October to begin work at the retail association.

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John Gott

August 16th, 2017 by Ken

(Editors note:  This is a chapter from my book “A Personal History of Lacey.)

Many important people have secrets, but John Gott, the superintendent of the North Thurston School District for 20 years,  was the biggest enigma I’ve ever encountered.  He was gregarious and out-going, loved parties and was well-respected by everyone, yet he held his secrets close to his body and seldom let anyone in.

I learned a few things about him and I suspect that he’s revealed his personal secrets to others in dibs and drabs.  He was a Missouri farm boy, but too intelligent to stay on the farm very long.  He was drafted during World War II and was sent to college to be trained as a doctor.  The war ended before he graduated and he couldn’t afford college on his own, so he burned all of his medical books in the college’s plaza and left.

He worked for Sears for a while collecting bad debts. Somehow, and I’m not certain just how, he managed to get a degree in civil engineering and somehow, I’m not certain just how, he ended up in New Mexico working in a capacity where he was in charge of funding for all of the New Mexico schools.

He was on his way to political office.  It was said he was next in line to run for governor of New Mexico.  Something happened.  John always said that he had a heart attack and when he recovered a career in politics had passed him by.   Others tell me that it was something different.  Whatever the reason he ended up at Washington State University pursuing his doctorate in education.

When the North Thurston School District was looking for a superintendent John Gott was their choice.  That’s when I first met him.

He relished his name – Gott.  Many people in the school district referred to him as the “Gott Father.”  Whatever his personal demons, and John wrestled with his personal demons all of the time, he was well-liked and well-respected.  And, he had the ability to see the future and adapt to trends not even on the horizon.

He foresaw the 24-hour work day and created a school to teach students 24-hours a day.  It was New Century, a high school which started in the late afternoon and ran into the evening.  John told me one time that he thought students who used New Century were students who had to work during the day, maybe by taking care of younger siblings.

He also understood that more than one-quarter of the high school student never graduated from high school, and so he started South Sound High School, designed to offer an alternative education.   Bear in mind that he was doing these projects in the 1980’s before most educators understood the need.

John also knew that not all students would go on to college, and invested district money in vocational programs.  During his time as superintendent, vocational education was a significant part of the district’s budget.   To that end, John wanted a high school devoted strictly to vocational education.

He worked with the adjacent school districts to form such a school program.  He wanted the school so badly that he even allowed it to go into the Tumwater School District, which would get the state funding and the bragging rights to vocational education.  The New Market Vocational Skills Center was formed.  And, while Tumwater officials reaped the public relations, the school was the brain-child of John Gott.

Over the years his programs have been shunted aside in the search for more money and accountability.   He asked me once, when he was in one of his blue moods, what he thought his legacy would be.  His programs were ruined and he thought that was his main contributions to the district.

I told him that those who he hired and trained would be his legacy.  Two of his protégés – – Dave Steele and Jim Koval – – have gone on to serve as superintendents of the North Thurston School District (now the North Thurston Public Schools.)

John liked to compete, whether it was  in poker or golf, or in the professional arena.  He also invested himself into the community through his involvement with business.

John was one of the founders of Lacey Bank (later Venture Bank and then First Community Bank) and served as the first Chairman of the Board.  His firm hand in the early years of the bank, made it a success.

When John retired, he disappeared, throwing away many friendships made through his work.  I heard about him one time.  He had taken over the job of superintendent of the Port Townsend school district  for a short period of time, and turned it around.  The Port Townsend newspaper said that the people of the school district would never know or understand the significance of John’s involvement.

I ran across him once, at SeaTac airport.  He had just come back from a fishing trip to Alaska.  The meeting was short and cordial but nothing more.

That’s just the way John liked it.

(Upon the death of his wife, Coeta, John Gott moved to Panorama.  At the time of this writing (2016) he still resides there.)





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Help! I’m an AMAZOMBIE

August 13th, 2017 by Ken

By Joe Illing

I never planned for this.  I never expected my life to veer off society’s byways into a dead end like this.  I never thought I’d spend my days like some kind of religious aesthete in total solitude observing a vow of involuntary mute silence.

But, here I am, sitting all alone with nary another sole in sight.  And, I probably won’t see another for days – – that is unless a FedEx van pulls up with my latest order.  Of course, I probably won’t see the driver or the van, and If I do, I probably won’t talk with him or her.   I remember, I did once, but that was a long time ago.

So, I’ve got to admit it.  I can’t avoid or hide it or deny it any longer.  I’m still alive but I look dead to the outside world because – – –


It wasn’t always like this.  I used to get up in the morning ready to tackle my chores, like shopping at Safeway.  I’d see clerks who worked there who actually knew me – – they even acted like they enjoyed seeing me.  No longer.  AmazonFresh does my grocery shopping for me, faster, and cheaper than I could do it for myself, which is why  – – –


I used to go to Best Buy or Bed, Bath and Beyond or Home Depot or Barnes and Noble, but not any more.  No need to.  Amazon offers a far better selection for much less money.  I don’t even need to get out of my easy chair now.  So it’s adios clerks and the friends I’d serendipitously run into since – – –


I don’t need to hassle with butchers, bakers or candlestick makers these days – – not in person anyway.  Nope, I can get what I need from Amazon.  In fact, the only live I person I have to deal with now is my local FedEx driver, and I don’t even have to do that, because – – –


Besides, the FedEx driver and I don’t have time to waste on trivial matters like gossip and useless chatter.  They’ve got vans overflowing with goodies that they have to deliver pronto and I’ve got my list of things to do around the house.  So you see – – –


Like I said.  I never planned on it.  I never dreamed of it, but here I am sitting at the dawn of a revolutionary new world.  One that’s cheap and easy – – even it it is solitary and lonely.  After all that’s a small price to pay to be able to kick-back and live it up in  AMAZOMBIELAND – – isn’t it?


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I’m a Democrat

August 11th, 2017 by Ken
(Editor’s note:  This article was originally published  on November 13th, 2016.)

I’m a Democrat.   I have been all of my adult life.  I was active and involved for more than 20 years.  In most of that time I was a Precinct Committeman.

I’m a Democrat because it is the party that cares about the working man.   It’s the party that supports the efforts of organized labor to get better working conditions for those who labor on manufacturing lines,in the mines and on the roads.   It’s  for the farmer who works from sun up to sun down to make a living for his family.   It’s the party that understands that small business is the lifeline of this country and the major employer of most working people.

That’s why I’m a Democrat.

The party that carries that name is no longer my party and hasn’t been for decades.   The party that carries the label of Democrat is not the party that echoes the reasons I’m a Democrat.   The party that carries that name is more concerned with other issues that have little or no bearing on my welfare and often works at odds to my future and my family’s future.

I’ve never been able to accomodate my beliefs to that of the Republican party which always favored big business over the working man.

The recent election has turned the parties upside down.   Do the Republicans now support the small business owner and the working stiff, or are they still partners with big business and the established elite?

And, where is my Democratic party?   Is it once and for all realizing that its core constituents of the hard working man and the small business owner may have moved to the Republicans?

I’m going to continue to be a Democrat and hope that sometime soon, my party will return to me.   Until then, I’ll just muddle through the rehetoric holding my party’s place until it comes back.

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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.





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Bob Macleod left his mark

July 20th, 2017 by Ken
(This commentary originally ran in November 2013)

The recent resignation of Bob Macleod from the Thurston County Commission should have come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Bob in the last few months.

Now in his 80’s, Bob Macleod was looking frail and sick and it was just a matter of time before he made his decision to step down as Thurston County Commissioner.

He set his retirement for December 31 and his vacancy will be filled by appointment.

Bob has been an active and involved member of this community for decades.  He moved to Thurston County in the 1970’s and went to work for KGY Radio as the news director.  He worked at KGY for 27 years and was looked upon by this community as a community asset.

It wasn’t just his news coverage that was outstanding, but it was his radio commentaries aired by KGY.  Bob Macleod always looked for a solution to any issue he talked about.  He wasn’t content to just comment on a local problem, but often offered his suggestions for a solution.

Unlike those who have come after him, Bob seldom upset anyone while voicing his opinions.  While his radio show often touched on touchy subjects, anyone listening came away convinced that they had heard both sides of the issue.

Bob Macleod was more than a newsman and more than a radio commentator, he was a community asset.  On many occasions he was asked to moderate a discussion or debate on a community concern because people knew he was fair and interested.

When Bob retired from KGY he didn’t stop his work to make his community a better place.  He went to work for State Senator Karen Fraser as kind of an aide.  He would help the senator better understand the issues and would offer her advice on how to proceed.

During his career as a newsman Bob always covered Thurston County government and the issues it faced.  So, when an opportunity to run for a Thurston County Commission seat came, he took it on and defeated the incumbent Democrat Kevin O’Sullivan, in the 2002 Primary Election.

If you didn’t know Bob Macleod you would have thought that he did very little, but you’d be wrong.  Bob didn’t seek the spotlight.  His service on the Thurston County Commission was one of quiet competence.  County government is better for having Bob Macleod on the board.

When he steps down at the end of this year his two fellow commissioners Cathy Wolfe and Sandra Romero will name someone to the vacant seat from a list prepared by Thurston County Democrats.   Whoever gets the appointment will have to run in 2010.

I’ll do other stories on the vacancy, the appointment process and the results, at a later time.

Right now I just want to thank Bob Macleod for all of his service to the community.

Thanks Bob.

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Campaigns and political signs

July 19th, 2017 by Ken

Election season came early this year.   The need to get ballots to our troops overseas resulted in moving the Primary Election date to August 1.   The ballots for the race came out last week.

In Lacey, there are seven candidates seeking election or re-election who are putting up campaign signs.   These include:  Rick Nelsen, Robert Motzer, Michael Steadman, Madeline Goodwin, Cynthia Cox, Rachel Young and yours truly Ken Balsley.

Three of those seven are not even on your Primary Election ballot.   Steadman and Motzer face off in November only –  and Rachel Young is running unopposed.   Why she wants to put up signs when she has no opposition is strange.   I suspect she had the signs made up before the filing period and just thought she needed to get some name recognition.

The four of us on the ballot – – Nelsen, Cox, Goodwin and Balsley  – are jockeying for name recognition.   That is the most important factor in a primary election.  Voters must become familiar with your name   Putting up campaign signs is the most effective way of getting name recognition.

The City of Lacey has rules regarding political signage.  For the most part, the rules are mostly ignored, particularly in city elections.  The most often violated rule says that no signs can be put up on the public right-of-way.

I put up signs only on private property with the approval of the land owner.  I also have some supporters who might put up signs that aren’t in complete compliance with the rules.

To date, I have about 300 signs out.  That’s a normal amount for a city election.   Most of my opponents have about the same amount of signs.   But, if it seems that all you see are my signs – – it’s due to one fact.  My signs stand out.   White on red is the best color for signs – and a simple name is all that can be read by drivers.

All of us complain about our signs being taken down.   To date, I have lost about 47 signs that I’m aware of.  Again, that’s normal.   Signs are knocked down by kids, blown over by wind, and taken down by people who just don’t like signs.   I don’t believe my opponents or their supporters take down my signs.   I know I instruct my supporters to keep their hands off my opponents signs and I suspect they do the same.

Once the campaign is over, all political signs must be removed in seven days.  Those who remain for the general election in November can keep their signs up.   Sometimes it does seem like its a long, long way to November.

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Lacey opts to wait on county convention center

July 7th, 2017 by Ken

“The Nisqually Tribe is important to the future of Lacey.”

With those words, Lacey mayor Andy Ryder may have effectively shut down efforts by the Thurston County Commissioners to create a cultural and convention center in Thurston County.

During a work session Thursday evening, county manager Ramiro Chavez and Commissioner Hutch Hutching, made a presentation to the Lacey council on the benefits of joining with the county in creating a special district to help fund a convention center.

But, Ryder’s words seemed to bring the discussion to an end.   Ryder said the city was still talking with the Nisqually tribe about the 240 acres of land the tribe owns in the Gateway area of Hawks Prairie and their idea of creating an entertainment center, which might include a hotel and convention center.

Ryder was joined in his remarks by Council members Lenny Greenstein and Jason Hearn who felt that a private entity should have the opportunity to build a convention facility before resorting to public money.

Ryder also told the county leaders that he has had talk with the mayors of both Tumwater and Olympia, and they all had concerns about the county’s proposal including the fast time frame the proposal seemed to be on.

Without the support of Lacey, the county’s largest city, it appears the county may have reached an end to its efforts.

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Small business closure affects community

June 30th, 2017 by Ken

It’s a shame when any small business has to close its doors.  It’s a shame that Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby had to announce that her clothing store – Vivala – was going out of business in August.

Small businesses are the heart of any community.   Not only do they employ local people, but the money they make goes back into the local community in terms of wages and purchases, as well as in local taxes.

The average small business lasts about five years.  Mayor Selby’s business beat the averages.   She should be proud of her venture into the retail trade.  And, while she may not feel good about the decision to close her store – – she’s right.   You can’t run a business as a non-profit.   It was the right business decision.

As mayor of Olympia, she has some ability to influence the business climate of her city.  She pledges to continue to be a supporter of small business and I think her decision to close down, will give her a better understanding of what problems all small businesses face.

As an aside – – Lacey Councilmember Rachel Young has a business adjacent to Selby’s .  Young is surely looking at the Olympia mayor’s struggles and wondering how it impacts her and her business in downtown Olympia.

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America’s great divide grows wider

June 21st, 2017 by Ken

The split in America isn’t between Democrats and Republicans or even between liberals and conservatives.  The split in America is nothing new.   It’s been with us since the beginning of human habitation.   It’s a split between rich and poor.

In the last presidential election, every single one of this country’s richest counties – – some 493 of them – voted for Hillary Clinton.  The other 2623 counties – mostly rural or suburban –  voted for Donald Trump.   Those are the findings of  people more versed in political  statistics than I.

Rich and poor have always been with us.   The Bible even says that we shall always have the poor.   In some forms of government, the divide between those with money and those without money is wide.  It has always been less so in the United States.  We have accepted the theory that hard work and education is the way for the poor to enter the mainstream.  And, with a little luck and even harder work – become rich.

But, for the last quarter of a century, the gap between rich and poor has widen in the United States.   Coupled with a decline in manufacturing jobs and an education system still stuck in the 18th Century, many poor and even middle class citizens, see no way for advancement to the next level of financial stability.

And, that’s the gap.   Those with money and status voted for Clinton and the status quo.   Those with little hope voted for Trump and hoped for the best.

And, that spilled over into Thurston County.  The liberal base in Olympia voted for the status quo.  Those in the rural area voted for change.   It’s a little over simplified, but it holds true.

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