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Guier guides Pacific's recovery | 2013 Person of the Year
Leanne Guier remembers the low point.
It came more than a year ago when Guier – then the Pacific City Council president – and the rest of the council were struggling to keep the City afloat after losing its insurance because of the mismanagement of former mayor Cy Sun.
While holding out hope that a last-minute insurance deal could save Pacific, Guier braced for the worst-case scenarios, which included a possible annexation by Auburn and disincorporation of the City altogether.
"I remember basically being on the verge of tears, wondering if the City was still going to exist," Guier said. "Dec. 26, 2012 was when we found out we were actually going to have insurance still. Two months prior to that I'm having meetings as council president with the mayor of Auburn and his staff and the King County Council and their staff to put in safeguards to help the citizens have services if we have no insurance."
A last-minute reprieve in the form of a new insurance policy kept the City operating into 2013, but it wasn't until a special election to recall the former mayor was made official in July that Pacific finally escaped Sun's shadow.
During that time, Guier became the public face of stability in Pacific.
"It was hard at first. When things first started happening, I stayed away," Guier said. "I didn't want to talk to anyone. I stayed away from the cameras. But it kind of got to the point where, as the council president, the role emerged as the leader. And it just kind of came on. It wasn't something that I sought after. It just came to be from the situations that kept getting put in front of me. I had to look out for the city. That's what the citizens were expecting of me."
New leader, new hope
After the recall, the council appointed Guier to be the new mayor.
She and her staff continued their work to repair a City Hall that had fractured under Sun's inept administration. The damage included the loss of more than $1 million in road improvement grants and the dismissal of crucial staff positions such as finance director, city clerk, community development and public works director.
Guier took on the challenge.
"I have to look out for the best interests of the city," said Guier, the Auburn Reporter's Person of the Year, an honor she shares with incoming Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. "That's what the council is expecting of me, that's why they appointed me."
She admits the City was in dire straits.
"The financial hits to the City and the pending suits and claims that are out there really surprised me," she said. "And just exactly where all our projects are, finding out we lost over a $1 million in grant money for not maintaining those projects was a big surprise and a heartbreak for the City. But I think we're going down the right path. We have the right people in place to get those projects up and running again."
In the six months that have passed since the recall, Pacific has appointed a new city clerk, and a new finance director, Richard Gould, who has helped untangle the City's finances.
Richard came in and in five months reconciled our finances for 2012 and 2013 and got a 2014 budget together," Guier said. "I feel very fortunate with everything he's done. I have a good team. Right now I think we're doing all right, but I think we can be stronger."
Guier soon hopes to have "100-percent functioning staff in all departments." She also wants to upgrade the City's technology and set up a nonprofit effort under the watch of a board of directors to fund the youth and senior centers.
More work needs to be done, but Guier is pleased with the progress. A new, affordable insurance policy with the Association of Washington Cities went into effect Jan. 1.
"I did the happy dance when I found out about that," Guier said of the new policy. "It was really exciting. When we actually approved the resolution at the (Dec. 23) meeting, I felt like popping champagne. It was a big deal. It was a big step for moving this City forward."