MARYSVILLE – Police Chief Rick Smith said outgoing City Council members Donna Wright and Jeff Seibert were like Mary Poppins and Darth Vader at their going-away gathering Dec. 18 at the Opera House.
Wright is like Poppins not only because she likes to wear hats and carry an umbrella, but also because she “magically gets things done.”
Seibert is like Vader not only because of the dark sunglasses he wears, but also because he is so intense, especially when looking at issues related to money.
Dozens of people attended the event to celebrate their combined 41 years of experience on the council. Both were defeated in the general election in November, Wright after 25 years and Seibert after 16.
A number of people spoke on their behalf before they took the stage.
City Council president Kamille Norton said that Wright “has a heart for the community.” Norton also said Wright’s historical knowledge of the city will be missed. Of Siebert, she said he always defended the taxpayer. “I learned from both of you. This city is a better place because of each of you.”
Council Member Jeff Vaughan said he would miss Wright and all of her great connections. He said he learned from Seibert that leaders can have different backgrounds, but common goals. He also predicted they will see Seibert at council meetings anyway so he will have “something to do on Monday nights.”
Parks director Jim Ballew said Wright was all about health. Thanks to her, Marysville was the first city to ban smoking in parks. She shared a dream of the waterfront looking like the famous River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. “Thank you for that vision. There’s still a ways to go.” He thanked both of them for work against graffiti, which is no longer a problem.
Chief Executive Officer Gloria Hirashima said she met Seibert when he was appealing a land-use issue. When elected he pushed the environmental issues, which were a “needed perspective” at the time, she said. Of Wright, Hirashima said each council member serves a different role, and Wright was a cheerleader and supportive presence for the community.
Former CAO Mary Swenson said people may think being a council member is “glorious, but it’s really a thankless job.” Of Wright, she said she tied Ken Baxter for the longest time anyone has served on the council. Of Seibert, she said when he was elected, there was not a lot of trust in the council. “You brought that credibility back,” she said.
Mayor Jon Nehring said he was elected the same year Seibert was. He said they both love hockey and that once, when the Silvertips were in the finals, they colluded to have the time of a council meeting changed so they could make the game. He also said Seibert fought so a fee on Comcast bills would not go up. Anyone who wants to get in touch with Seibert needs to call his wife, Amber, because he doesn’t check his email, Nehring added. Of Wright, he said she goes all the way back to when the state had a GOP governor. He added they both were effective, but different leaders: Wright representing the city in state, regional and national committees, and Seibert working more behind the scenes.
Then the honorees got to speak. Seibert thanked many of the city department heads. He said when he first joined the council he was probably thought of as an environmentalist and anti-growth. He conflicted with Councilman Stephen Muller, who was the opposite. But they put their biases aside and worked together. “I was wrong about your personality,” he said to Muller. Seibert said he respected the diversity of views on the council. “It made me look at things differently and wonder why I have the position I have” on an issue, he said. He shared a funny story about the mayor. When they were at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., Nehring turned white as a ghost when a guard told him to “Take out your gun.” Really, he was asked to take out his gum.
When it was Wright’s turn, she was applauded after saying she and Gary have been married 56 years. During her time on council, there have been four mayors, five city administrators and 26 council members. In her many trips to the nation’s capitol, she said she got to know U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Of Cantwell, Wright said she could get in to see her any time, but with Murray, “It depends if she’s up for election.”
Wright then explained the funny story of how she got involved in politics. She was a worker bee, not interested in elected office. There were two empty spots on the council, and her son Ted, 17 at the time, wanted to run. Signs were made up, and then the state auditor said even though Ted was 18 now, he was too young to file for office earlier. Some friends paid the filing fee for Donna, and now she was suddenly running – against the well-known Baxter. She lost. But when an open seat was available soon after, he nominated Wright for the spot.