WALLY'S WORLD: Enumclaw mayor traded art scene for City Hall

Liz Reynolds is an energetic, bright-eyed, middle-age, “young” lady who’s a friend of mine.

She initiated this community’s first “Art In the Garden” happening. I’ve attended a large number of art openings and events of one type or another and I can honestly declare, without exception, that her showings by various artists, in the beautifully landscaped grounds surrounding her home, is the finest exhibit I’ve ever attended. (Not the actual artistic works, but the setting.)

Such aesthetic pursuits weren’t fulfilling enough, so Liz gave up “Art In The Garden” (it’s been taken over by Arts Alive! in Cathy Matson’s country garden) and, of all things, she ran for a seat on our City Council. She won. Apparently, Liz was quite taken by the political world and, after four years on the council, she ran for mayor and damned if she didn’t win that, too!

Well, to make a long story short, Liz is a politician now and no longer has much time for the art scene. The poor girl just goes from bad to worse.

Anyway, I sat down with Liz last week and we shot the breeze for a hour or so. I asked her if being mayor was everything she thought it would be.

“Yeah.” she replied. “More or less. But it’s more work than I expected. On occasion, 60 hours a week.”

She cast a sly, tiny smile. “I guess the most difficult part is making everyone happy. After all, there are around 125 city employees. Sometimes it’s kinda difficult to get the public involve in projects. Everyone seems to be hunkered down in his or her own, little bunker, blaming everyone else.”

She said small, isolated towns and suburban communities like Enumclaw are in trouble all over the country. A lot of them are simply drying up. Even before the current recession compounded their problems, mom and pop stores were being strangled by the Internet and large box stores. We can witness this first-hand with the vacant storefronts along Cole and Griffin streets.

Yet surprisingly, on any given day the immediate downtown can be so busy and crowded with cars it’s difficult to find a parking place. I asked Liz if she could explain this apparent inconsistency. She contributes some of the congestion to the success of restaurants, bars and professionals, like lawyers, accountants and dentists. However, the mom and pop operations, like service stations, grocery stores, clothing stores, gift shops and any number of other private businesses, are having a much harder time.

I asked what her most important future projects are. Without hesitation, she indicated the water and sewer lines had to be overhauled and the streets had to be paved, but it makes no sense to repair one without also dealing with the other. Nor does it make sense to do a patchwork, willy-nilly job; that is, the whole project has to be undertaken at the same time.

“We’re talking millions of dollars here,”  she explained. “We need an overall, strategic, long-range plan.”

In the meantime, we’ll continue to kick up chunks of Cole Street asphalt. Dodge the chuckholes as best you can because, if you hit one, you risk losing your car in the darned thing.

On a more pleasant note, Liz would like to turn that vacant lot across from this newspaper’s office into a temporary pocket park. She’d build a bandstand there and on warm, summer evenings – perhaps after the various street fairs – she’d close a block or two of Cole to traffic, offer live music in the park and line the sidewalks with tables and chairs so people could sit down, eat and have a drink.

Now, that’s a splendid idea! And we aren’t talking millions of dollars. It’s simply a kind of block party and these are common in urban and suburban areas all across America. Yeah, save me a seat for that one.

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