Thurston County’s most unique elected official

December 22nd, 2015 by Ken

I’ve been a fan of George Barner Jr. since our days at Olympia High School.

Even then, George was making a name for himself by venturing into the arena of “rock and roll.”    And, while he never made the big time like some of his fellow Olympia High School students – – Gretchen Christopher and Don Ulrich – to name just two – – he did become a local rocker.   George performed with several local groups – – first as Big George Barner and the Corvettes and later with the Sting Rays and Trendsetters – – at a lower weight.

But while rock and roll was his first true love – – his calling was politics.    His dad – George Barner – was the youngest person ever elected mayor in Centralia.   His half-sister Gracie Hanson ran for governor of Oregon.   Politics was in George’s blood.

George first ran for elective office in 1972 when he made a play to be elected state representative in the 22nd District.  His opponent was the incumbent Republican John Hendricks – – owner of Hendricks Rexal Drugs.  Hendricks was a tall man nearly 6 ft 6 inches and ran on the platform “He stands head and shoulders above the rest.”    George’s response “It doesn’t matter how tall a man stands, it’s what he stands for that counts.”    George lost that race.

But, in 1977 George was elected at Thurston County Commission and took his seat in 1978.   George held that job for four terms before leaving office in 1992.   During that time, he pushed the environmental conscience of the county.    George had been an environmentalist before that term became common.    He loved railroads and was instrumental in getting the Centennial Station built – – the only Amtrak station run solely by volunteers.

After George left office, he worked as a bartender and did a few music gigs for non-profit groups – but he never took his eyes off county politics.   When the Port of Olympia had problems with its future – and wanted to kick Radio Station KGY from its port property location – – George ran for the seat and was elected.   He was re-elected once and then lost his position this past year when it was revealed that George had not kept up with modern society and wasn’t able to use the internet.

Thurston County is going to miss George Barner Jr. as an elected official.  I voted for George, but it was time for him to go.

For my interview I did with George, click on the “Coffee With Ken” button at the top of this page then scroll down to his spot.

Posted in History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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