Derek Young (D) represents the 7th District, including the Key Peninsula, on the Pierce County Council. Courtesy Derek Young

Derek Young, recently elected to the Pierce County Council by a razor-thin margin, did not come to politics with a long-range plan to do so.

He moved to Gig Harbor at age 9. His grade school and middle school have both closed, he said as he smiled ruefully.

“At least Gig Harbor High School is still standing,”he noted.

His parents, sister and nieces all continue to live in Gig Harbor.

Young attended the University of Washington. When he returned to Gig Harbor with the mindset of a young environmentalist, he was frustrated by his community’s reaction to the then new growth management plan.

He said he ran for a position on the Gig Harbor City Council to make a point and never expected to win. But he took the race and at age 21 found himself on the council, where he served for 16 years.

As a result of his involvement in transportation and land-use issues, Young participated in a number of regional committees and came to the conclusion that decisions made at a county level have an enormous impact on local communities. At that point he decided to run for the Pierce County Council. After a hand recount, he was declared the victor in January, replacing Stan Flemming.

“District 7, covering north Tacoma, Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula, represents a true snapshot of Pierce County —covering the most urban, the most rural and everything in between,”Young said.

To get to know the Key Peninsula, he has attended many meetings. Over a recent two-week period, he came to a Community Council meeting, attended the first organizational meeting of the Key Peninsula Democrats and met with the Key Peninsula Business Association. He plans to spend one to two days a week doing outreach to his constituents and noted that sometimes “just hanging around”can help to keep in touch with people.

Young’s interest in land use continues unabated.

“If we are to protect rural areas, we need to grow in more populated areas. The trick is to do it gracefully and to maintain the character of each community. It is hard, but it is important to try,”he said.

When asked what he sees as the main issues facing the Key Peninsula, he prioritized the Shoreline Management Plan, the Key Peninsula Community Plan as it fits into the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan, and transportation. His involvement in other pressing issues —mental health services, the county business plan and the jail ––has added to his busy schedule.

Working with the County Council has had its challenges, Young said. Although the broad strokes look similar, the work is on a larger scale compared to that of Gig Harbor, and the area is much more diverse.

Young also has seen a much more partisan approach. While colleagues on the Gig Harbor City Council might not agree, the climate was one of mutual respect and collegiality. He has felt that there has been more one-upmanship at the county level and hopes that this can change.

“It’s up to us to minimize conflict, not to put politics above the community,”he said.

“I am enjoying the heck out of getting to know folks I didn’t know prior to the campaign,”he added. “The institutions on the Key Peninsula are extraordinary, as is the level of community spirit and civic responsibility. There is a bit of a ‘we’re on our own’feeling that comes from the rural location. It is tremendously humbling to be given the honor to serve. My door is open. I am a phone call away and answer all my emails.”

Councilman Derek Young can be reached via phone at (253) 798-6654 or email to derek.young@co.pierce.wa.us

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