By Pat Jenkins
Eight years as a fixture at Eatonville Town Hall, four of them as mayor, have come to an end for Ray Harper. Not the way he hoped, but that’s okay, he says.
Harper chose not to run for re-election this year for a second term as mayor. In making that announcement, he said the mayoral duties were too time-consuming for him to try to continue while also working a full-time job with Boeing.
But he said he could devote enough time to being a Town Council member, which he was for four years before being elected mayor in 2009. So he ran for an open council seat – and lost, to first-time candidate Bob Walter, who garnered 53 percent of the votes.
When newly elected town offiecholders take the oath of office Thursday at the Visitor Center, Walter will be in and Harper will be out – but not upset that voters have shown him the door. In an interview with The Dispatch, Harper expressed gratitude to the citizenry for his time as mayor, wished the best for mayor-elect Mike Schaub, and said he’ll remain active in the community where he raised his children, has lived for a quarter-century and plans to retire.
He also hinted he may run for office again after he retires, but isn’t saying which one.
How do you feel the town is positioned as your term as mayor comes to a close?
And is there one or more accomplishments you’re proudest of?
Harper: “I enjoyed my time as mayor and I appreciate being given the opportunity to run our town. There were many difficult decisions that I had to make, and I feel I did the best I could do in most instances. With the downturn in the economy, the first few years as mayor were extremely challenging. It took some time to see where our problems were and correct those situations. Once I took care of some staffing issues, our financial condition improved considerably. The hard part was reducing payroll and cutting hours of good employees.
“I feel our existing employees are doing an excellent job, even though they have had to get by with less help and fewer resources. Doug (Beagle), our town administrator, has done an excellent job in the last three years correcting previous missteps and keeping the town moving forward.
“The larger projects we completed during my term were the Mashell Avenue rebuild and finishing the town’s Visitor Center. We added a second underground feeder from our transformer station and did a million dollar liner improvement to our waste treatment facility.”
What advice do you have for your successor, Mike Schaub?
Harper: “Probably the hardest part of this job is time allocation and determining which meetings and functions to attend outside of the town. I attended both regional councils and any state functions that had to do with any revenue sources we could attain for the town. When I first become mayor, I tried to attend every function I was invited to, and I learned over time to be selective or delegate to other department heads.
“Mike is more than qualified and he will do a great job as mayor. As the top supervisor in town, you soon learn how passionate some people can get and all the different ways they can express that to you.”
Will you continue to live in Eatonville and stay involved with the community in some way?
Harper: “I moved to Eatonville almost 25 years ago to raise my children, and although they have since moved away, I plan on retiring here as long as I stay employed at my current location. Eatonville is a nice, safe place with wonderful citizens and I’m proud to say I live here. I’m a member of the Eatonville Lions Club and I will stay involved with that organization. And perhaps once I get caught up on my chores, I will help the (Eatonville) Family Agency.”
Do you think you will run for any public office again?
Harper: “I have learned that public service always starts out good but doesn’t always end like you anticipate. I don’t have any plans to run for public office any time soon, but I may look at something after I retire from my current Job. I tend to have thick skin and only remember the good things associated with serving the public, which helps for future endeavors in politics.”