During an interview with Key Pen News, 7th District Pierce County Council Member Terry Lee announced his intention to run for reelection at the end of his first four-year term that will end this fall. He said he planned to kick-start his campaign later in March or April. And looking even further into the future, Lee says that he may eventually run for Pierce County executive as well. But for the moment his sights are set on the upcoming election.
And that’s of considerable interest to Key Peninsula residents, whom Lee sees “….as a unique group” that differs from neighboring communities. To prove that, the council member points to a long list of peninsula-related projects he’s been working on during the last 12 months.
To find out what people on the peninsula think of Lee’s efforts, Key Pen News took a partial list of accomplishments provided by his staff out into the community to find out the impact of Lee’s work.
Transfer of 360-acres from the state Department of Natural Resources to the Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District and funding for the skateboard park that might be constructed on the 360-acre property:
As Ed Taylor, owner of the Westwynd Motel in Purdy, explains it, the effort to acquire additional park lands began about five years ago when he was asked to chair the now-disbanded Key Peninsula Park and Recreation District’s land acquisition committee. Eventually, having examined various properties on the north end of the peninsula, Taylor and his committee came across a 360-acre parcel that belonged to Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources. They wrote a letter to the state, and secured support from state legislators, including Rep. Bob Oke, who had been through the process before.
Lee was elected to the county council as the effort began to gain traction, and sponsored a meeting that brought state officials, elected representatives, and citizens together to talk about the opportunity.
“He was a big help by bringing everyone together,” Taylor says. “As a result of that meeting, and many others, we got on the list and the Legislature approved the transfer… Sometime this year we’re going to get a deed to the property — and the (Key Peninsula) Metro Park District will hold title to the land.”
When asked for his opinion regarding Lee, Scott Gallacher, director of the Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District, says, “I feel that Terry Lee is a great asset to our local community out here. He’s a strong supporter of our parks. Being a newcomer to the area. I’ve heard the representation wasn’t always the best… Terry is looking to assist in the development of both the skateboard park and the whole park in general.”
Round the clock police protection:
Key Pen citizens have been asking for 24/7 law enforcement for quite awhile now, and according to Community Mobilization Specialist Dennis Taylor of Safe Streets, “During the budget cycle each of the council members assesses what the funding needs are for their budget. And, I’m sure that every member gets everything they request — but working with Terry ever since he was elected, I know he puts a high priority on the peninsula’s law enforcement needs.
“For 2006 they (the sheriff’s department) have a new Community Service Officer, Emily Watson, and then two new neighborhood patrol deputies, one of whom has been hired and is already working. They also have funding for a new deputy who will be doing investigative work. Strictly on community-related safety issues, because that’s my responsibility, I would give him (Lee) an A-plus.”
Drug paraphernalia county ordinance:
“What happened,” Taylor says, “was that it was brought to my attention that there was a smoke shop in Purdy that was selling pipes only used for drug use. After further research it turned out that there were six such shops in the greater Gig Harbor area, all selling what amounts to drug paraphernalia.”
After rounding up support from Lt. Larry Bauer of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Peninsula Detachment and Gig Harbor Police Department Chief Mike Davis, Taylor took the issue to Lee, who visited one of the stores, and in Taylor’s words, “….was appalled by what they were selling….” After that Lee took the matter back to the county council, where according to Taylor, “He’s been shepherding the ordinance through the process and we’re near getting that ordinance passed.”
Reduction in the number of false alarms:
“The problem,” as Lt. Bauer puts it, “has always been that 99.9 percent of the (burglar) alarms that come in to the sheriff’s department are false. And if you spread that over the peninsula you can see that responding to the alarms can eat a lot of time and effort. This is a problem throughout Pierce County. The sheriff and his staff came up with a proposal that went to the county council. And as a result there was a new ordinance that came into existence.
“I think he (Terry Lee) is a great council member and I’m really pleased with the work that he’s done. I don’t know what happened in the council itself — I just know that we have an ordinance that should reduce the number of false alarms, which is a good thing. He’s done a great job… I look forward to working with him on a whole range of issues.”
Shoreline related issues:
Lee has 179 miles of shoreline within his district, and for some time now has been working to find a way to balance the rights of property owners and the need to protect critical areas. “We’ve already got regulations on bulkheads and docks. I think shoreline owners are great stewards of our shoreline,” Lee says. “We have developed new regulations for high value shoreline. It applies mainly to feeder bluffs, estuaries, and tidelands.”
At this point the new regulations have been approved by the county council, and were sent to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, which approved them. A 60-day clock for appeals started on Feb. 2. Any group with legal standing can appeal, but to the best of Lee’s knowledge, there are no plans to do so.
Frank Slater, Key Pen resident who owns waterfront property, says, “In this case Terry acted like a politician. Actually I think he did the best he could for the majority of his constituents. On the last revision they cut down on the number of individuals affected from 4,000 to 5,000 to 400 to 500. From that standpoint he’s helped most of our shoreline people quite a bit.”
Key Peninsula Community Services and Food Bank:
The Key Peninsula Community Services is a food bank and senior center. According to Director Linda Hubbard, Lee, “…has allotted funding, and when we receive the funds, it will be a tremendous benefit for our community. We have a very positive working relationship with Mr. Lee.”
Farm Voucher program:
As described by David Hanson, program specialist with the Pierce County Department of Aging and Long Term Care, the “Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program provides people 60 years and older with $40 worth of vouchers to use at farmer’s markets or roadside stands.” They do need to meet income criteria to qualify for the program. “This year,” Hanson says, “if someone has a monthly income below $1,510, they qualify for the program.”
Funding for the voucher program comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state of Washington, and county funds requested by individual council members including Lee for their specific districts. When asked how important the county level funding is to the program, Hanson says, “Very important. It allows us to serve more people.”
The program served more than 1,200 seniors last year — and Hanson’s department expects nearly 2,000 seniors to take advantage of it during 2006. Shiloh Farms in Lakebay is authorized to accept the vouchers and it’s likely that the farmer’s market in Gig Harbor will be able to take them as well.
Key Peninsula Community Council and the Key Peninsula Community Plan:
In order to get some perspective on Lee’s work with the Community Council and the Key Peninsula Community Plan, Key Pen News spoke with Jeff Harris, president of the nonprofit Key Peninsula Community Council and member of the county-funded KP Community Planning Board (currently working on a 20-year plan for the Key Pen). “Clearly, from the Community Council’s perspective, he’s been very supportive,” Harris said. “Each council member has a fund, and he’s used a portion of his to support some of our administrative expenses.”
When asked about whether folks on the peninsula ever received the short end of the stick, Harris answered this way. “They had until Terry showed up! He provides superb representation. He’s at almost every community meeting. He invests a lot of time making sure that he’s accessible to the community.”
As previously reported in the Key Pen News, the owners of six properties recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Tacoma and its Tacoma Public Utilities following a long-standing dispute related to 144th Street, a primitive road owned by the utility, and used by local residents to access their homes. As reported earlier, Lee has been active in trying to help resolve the issue — though unsuccessfully up to this point.
So what do the property owners think of Lee? Doug Sherman, one of the property owners involved in the suit against the city of Tacoma, had this to say: “I think he’s a pretty decent man. He’s been of help to us, the simple laymen, in terms of getting someone to take a look at our situation. He’s not God…. He’s done what he can do.”
Key Pen News attempted to contact other residents as well but without success.
Boat ramp at Home:
The boat launch in Home has been the subject of controversy for more than 10 years. Some of the local homeowners don’t like the traffic the ramp generates, or the parking problems associated with it, but other Key Peninsula residents feel that the launch is an important amenity. According to Claude Gahard, owner of Trillium Creek Wineries and Home resident, the launch is in need of maintenance too. Fortunately for those who favor a public boat launch, help is on the way. “The metro park district is trying to absorb the boat launch into the park district,” Gahard says. “And Terry Lee is helping to accomplish that. To me, Terry Lee is a problem solver.”
Key Peninsula Basin Plan:
According to Barbara Ann Smolko, senior planner with Pierce County Water Programs, the Key Peninsula Basin Plan “…is a work plan for the Water Programs Division of Pierce County’s Public Works and Utilities Department. And it is specifically for the Key Peninsula and the islands.”
Smolko goes on to say that, “What happens is these plans have to be adopted by the county council. What we found in the case of Gig Harbor was that it’s helpful to have a council member supporting the plan through the adoption process. He (Lee) was very supportive of adding a shellfish component to the basin plan.”
The subject of education wasn’t on the list of accomplishments that Lee’s office gave to the paper, but when Marcia Harris, deputy superintendent of the Peninsula School District, heard that KP News was doing an article on Lee, she volunteered the following: “From the school district’s standpoint, he’s always been there for us. For example, we wrote a grant with help from the sheriff’s department to install a solar power traffic sign in front of Evergreen Elementary. Terry Lee has been very, very helpful in getting us through the county paperwork to make that happen.”
It’s clear that Council Member Lee is not only held in very high esteem by many on the Key Peninsula but is genuinely liked and admired. Partly because of his personality, but largely due to the fact that he delivers results. Will that performance garner votes for a Republican candidate on what Lee describes as a largely Democratic peninsula? The likely answer is “yes.”
So, given all of the different constituencies he has to deal with, and the extremely long hours, why does the councilman do it? Lee, who has a tendency to look you right in the eye, puts it this way: “It’s all about serving people. When I came across the Narrows Bridge 33 years ago, I felt like I had stepped into paradise and I wanted to protect it. And that’s still the way I feel.”