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Katie Garberding ready to do her part on Pacific council
Katie Garberding is no stranger to service.
Although her appointment as Pacific's newest councilmember on Aug. 12 marks her first official role as a community leader, Garberding said her parents raised her to believe in the importance of helping out.
"My dad was a military man (a one-star general in the U.S. Army) and we used to do lots of community events," she said. "We were raised that way. Every Saturday or Sunday, one of the two, dad would have us scrubbing statues, handing out peanut butter sandwiches to homeless people. I was doing that at 5 years old."
Garberding, born and raised in Seattle, attended and graduated with a diploma from Juanita High School in 1979.
"I actually attended an alternative school called BEST. I don't remember what it stood for, because I got pregnant my senior year," she said. "They didn't give out diplomas from there, but I got one from Juanita."
Immediately after school, Garberding concentrated on raising the first of her four children, Helen, who is now 34.
"I stayed at home with my daughter and lived with my dad in Bellevue," she said. "He passed away in 1982 when I was 20, then I went to work. I worked in bars as a barmaid and then I went to school, a (vocational technical school) for secretarial. After graduating from there, I've only had one job since, for the past 23 years. I work for a CPA firm in Bellevue."
Garberding found her way to Pacific in 2009 when she reignited a relationship with a former sweetheart, Kerry Garberding, a Pacific resident of more than 20 years.
"Kerry and I had dated 32 years ago," she said. "Things didn't work out then. I was 18 and he was 23. We dated about a year and then went our separate ways and ended up getting married to other people."
Four years ago Kerry and Katie reunited, through Katie's sister.
"I gave him a call and we went out just to catch up," she said. "Just a cup of coffee and catch up on the last 30 years, and it just picked right up where it left off. It's pretty awesome."
Her first impressions of Pacific's small town feel were favorable.
"I thought it was Mayberry, complete with Andy and Aunt Bea at the post office," she said. "The first time I went to Pacific Days, it was just such an Opie kind of day. They don't have those things in Bellevue. The one thing that I really like about is the community events that they do. I've never lived somewhere where they do events like this. I thought it was great, once I saw the little Mayberry-type things, like Pacific Days, the tree lighting."
Garberding said her eyes were also opened to how supportive a small community could be by observing sandbagging efforts during flooding on the White River.
"People that don't even live in our neighborhood showed up," she said. "The Boy Scouts set up their tent in the wind, so we moved them into the garage so they could stay dry while they gave people coffee and cookies. It's just the fact that people pull together. To me, that's a rare thing. I don't think I've seen that since I was a kid."
Garberding said her initial foray into community service began in 2011, when she and her husband began attending city council meetings.
"I was tired of driving past that flagpole at night and seeing no light on it," she said. "That is total disrespect; too many people have died for that flag. That's what started it. (Then mayor Richard) Hildreth said he'd get on it and he never got on it, so I started voicing my opinion and writing letters."
Let there be light
Garberding's efforts were rewarded when she arranged community donations to wire lighting for the flagpole.
Then, former Mayor Cy Sun was elected in a write-in campaign. That prompted a higher level of involvement from Garberding.
"We decided that, even if we didn't vote for him, we were going to stand behind him," she said. "I could kind of see the way he was going, from a military standpoint, the my way or the highway. But one of the things I was taught was in order to get respect, you have to give respect. My dad was a one-star general and he had the respect of his men, and he instilled that in us. You can't go in all crazy."
"The way (Sun) went about things was just all wrong," she said. "The attitude of 'if you don't like it, too bad,' he ran that like a very poorly run war. In my opinion, I think it was a personal war. It's sad, I feel sorry for everyone involved. The town really took a hit."
Now Garberding is committed to helping to get the city back on track, assuming current Mayor Leanne Guier's vacant council seat until her appointed term expires on Dec. 31, 2013.
"It's just a matter of getting involved. Things might not get changed, but at least you did something other than sitting on the sidelines," she said. "I just learned to become a voice in the community."
She is also a much needed voice on the council, Guier said.
"I like that she asks a lot of questions. She thinks about things," Guier said. "And the number one question she's always asking is 'why'. 'Why are we doing that?' That's really good for council, to be accountable. And staff. And the mayor. To have a reason. She's not afraid to ask that. She's a breath of fresh air."