A glimpse into the life of Mayor Douglas Richardson for the city of Lakewood

You can’t help but smile when talking with him.  When asked by the staff writer for Tacoma.com how long he has been in his current position, he remarked “Sitting?” in regards to how long he had been sitting in his current position versus the length of time in his current position as mayor.  Douglas Richardson has been mayor of the city of Lakewood for six non-consecutive terms and has been on the Council for 16 years.

Douglas shared what many people may not know about him and being mayor, “I like to think I have a sense of humor; everyone may not be aware that I do. As far as being the mayor things people may not know if you’re talking about the office of mayor itself there’s significant interaction with other communities, governments, and agencies on a pretty regular basis. People may not be aware of that and how often it goes on. Recently we met with Steilacoom, Lakewood, and Du Point to discuss the flood control zone district. I guess people would be surprised about the interaction between the city of Lakewood, Pierce County government, the Pierce County Regional Council, Puget Sound Regional Council, and other agencies like that as well as obviously, other cities and towns in Pierce County.”

Douglas is originally from Groton, Massachusetts, 35 miles northwest of Boston. “Great little small town… lot of fun; lived there 17 years.  Then college to the Citadel college in South Carolina equivalent to Central or Western [Washington University] here.  Got a four year Army scholarship, then graduated, then commissioned as second lieutenant. Then active duty was assigned in Alaska, second ranger battalion here for a few years then left active duty and stayed in army reserve and retired as a brigadier general in 2008.

[When I was] on active duty battalion, I was stationed at Fort Lewis; fell in love here and stayed here… been here for much longer than I was in Massachusetts,” Douglas explained. When asked what his hobbies and interest were, Douglas replied, “As I get older, more physical…I like to hike, I run, I do enjoy the theater (Lakewood playhouse), reading, obviously I like football all sorts of things like that. I have football season tickets to the Seahawks…Giving interviews,” he added.

When asked what he thought of his current position and the city of Lakewood, Douglas replied, “I love my position in the city of Lakewood and great town. And I enjoy serving.” He shared the best thing about being mayor, “Local government, to me is fantastic because there’s seven of you on the council. People know who you are generally, know how to contact you; what I love is the interaction with people in providing services. Legislature for example, you’re one of “X” you’re removed from people that you represent. I work here; I live here, without being in my town. I love interaction with people that’s probably the best part of the job.”

Douglas explained what led him to his current career, “Lakewood was incorporated in 1995, a brand new city; an opportunity. I was drawn to make an impact and shape the community I was raising a family in that was really why I pursued it. I was coaching baseball and soccer (did it when the kids were small)…On the Lakeridge soccer club all that (when kids were young on the board as well as being a coach).” “I’m a spoiled guy…never had to use I-5 to get to work; work in the same town as I live which is why I care about employment centers in Lakewood so more people can have that opportunity.”

Douglas shared what he does in his current position as mayor of Lakewood, “City council is responsible for policy in the city, establishing the policies and procedure in the city on the day to day basis (implementation). Most recent example, of course discussions of flood control districts came up…different place than Tacoma community garden in regards to medicinal marijuana topic of discussion. [We put the] laws, policies, and place so we know how the city’s gonna operate…All about providing cities services. Streets clean, repaired, police service on the street removing as many roadblocks to set up businesses, foster positive business climate. For example, policy thing Business occupation tax (Lakewood does not) whereas other cities do.”

When asked what he hoped to accomplish in his career over the next few years, Douglas replied, “It’s interesting you say that as I have a couple years left. Public safety, economic development… to be real honest what I look forward to is significant economic changes in the city; re-development. I think you’re gonna find some positive changes with the ones we already made. I can only tell you that some businesses will arriving.”

When asked what advice he would give someone that wanted to become mayor, Douglas responded, “Advice I give people that want to be elected into office period, really need to be involved in the community. Running for office or being elected is just a natural outgrowth of that. You know as I described to you people get to know you is by virtue of how you live your life every day… out there… involved (I was) coaching athletic teams out doing things in the community, member of a church, whatever…you know…people it’s sort of natural. No grand plan as much as getting involved other than politics then I think going to elected office is a pretty natural thing to do if you have an interest in it. A lot of people have no interest in it all. If you’re interested, that’d be my recommendation. Of course, I also won dancing with the stars in 2009 (Douglas points to his trophy in his office) they’re doing it again this Saturday; the 2011 version done by the Tacoma playhouse. They have a male and female category and I obviously won the male category. Adam Smith, congressman… this year Bill Baarsma (former mayor) is competing Saturday and council member Dick Muri. Helen McGovern is one of the females. In 2009, they asked me to compete in this little deal. I was selected best male star. I did the quick step. You do a dance with your partner…A very good dance for a politician. No, I won’t demonstrate you’ll have to look on YouTube. It’s a fundraiser for charity and the playhouse. Anyone that participates as a dancer can select a charity and people that attend or watch; part of those proceeds go to that charity. So, it’s for playhouse as well as other charitable organizations. For example, Helen McGovern is supporting the emergency food network…Dick Muri is supporting the Lakewood Historical Society.”

I guess that’s why someone as community oriented as Douglas would respond, “Not done yet,” when asked what three words to describe himself. Why? “You know I don’t like growing moss on myself. I like to keep moving…always the next project or improvement in the city that I’m ready to get started on.”

Douglas concluded, “Thank you very much for coming out and doing an interview. I think it’s important you’re bringing bios, news, and events to the community. I think it’s great because more and more people are getting information through social media and the web. I don’t think they’re at home waiting for the next newsletter in the mail….to see the next square dance at the community center, eh?”

by Carly Calabrese, Tacoma.com staff