It’s hard to put a single hat on Don Morrison’s head.
Since taking an internship writing park grants for various cities in Utah in 1975, Morrison has left his mark on countless city, county and state governments, as well as a large number of governmental agencies and committees.
For the last 14 years, he’s been Bonney Lake’s City Administrator, helping Mayor Neil Johnson shape the city into what it is today — not just its physical development, he said, but also the development of its community and a shared identity.
But later this month, Morrison is stepping down to retire, and he’s taking the time to look back on what 43 years of working in the public sector has meant to him.
“It’s always nice to show people the brick and mortar stuff, to have a lasting legacy that way,” he said. “But the really satisfying things are more personal things with people, where you’ve been able to make friendships or mentor someone who ends up doing bigger and better things. That to me is the most satisfying.”
Since coming to Bonney Lake, Morrison’s overseen many developments in the city that many people may not consider exciting, or even know about at all, but were instrumental to Bonney Lake’s growth.
“The city has really done a lot,” he said, pointing out the regional storm pond, improvements to the Ballpark Well (which helps Bonney Lake residents get water in the summer), water pump and sewer lift stations, and the Peking Water Storage Tank — all projects that helped the city grow by more than 6,000 residents between 2004 and 2016, according to U.S. census data.
But while the city’s population grew larger over the last decade, Bonney Lake’s municipal staff has stayed the same size, which Morrison believes is an impressive achievement for the city as a whole.
“Since the recession hit toward the end of 2007, 2008, we haven’t added a single employee in probably 10 years… Traditionally, if you just use a rule of thumb, you would add, for our mix of services, about 10 employees per 1,000 growth — a couple of cops, a street maintenance worker to handle the expanded growth — and we haven’t added anybody,” Morrison said. “That’s put a lot of strain on the city to be more efficient and do a lot more with less. I don’t think people understand that, or give enough credit to the city for being able to get through that recession.”
But a city’s health is more than its infrastructure and its finances.
“When I first came here, I didn’t sense any sense of community. People would associate with their HOA, but hardly anybody considered themselves ‘Bonney Lake,’” Morrison recalled. “But then Neil and I tried to build this sense of community. We got the high school, that helps, having the Bonney Lake High School… we started Bonney Lake Days, the Kidz Club, Tunes @ Tapps, started different open houses in neighborhoods and had council meetings there, and invited the citizens to build a sense of community.”
Morrison added he believes the city now has a strong sense of identity; Tunes @ Tapps is now a summer staple event on the Plateau, and Beautify Bonney Lake is billed as the biggest community clean-up event in the state, bringing together between 600-700 residents every year.
Though he’s retiring in the midst of several large city projects — namely, the Allan Yorke Park Master Plan and the creation of Midtown Park — he’s confident his replacement, Public Services Director John Vodopich, is more than up to the challenge.
Beyond his municipal career, Morrison is also known for his community work as a past Cub Master, Scout Master, member of the Rotary International, member of the Lakewood community band and Tacoma Community College symphonic band, and, maybe most interestingly, past president of the Skookum Archers in Puyallup.
As a high schooler, Morrison had dreams to be on the first American archery team when the Olympics brought back archery in 1972. He didn’t make the team, but he took his first Utah state archery championship when he was in high school, and won 16 more state competitions before hanging up his bow in college.
“I essentially didn’t shoot for 30 years,” he said. “Sometimes we kid about people having midlife crises, so when it came time for me to have my midlife crisis (I still love my wife and I couldn’t afford a Corvette) I decided to take up my old high school hobbies — playing the trumpet and shooting a bow and arrow.”
Just this month, he competed in the world’s largest 3-D archery competition, the Californian Western Classic.
Morrison is more a fan of the traditional recursive bow than the modern compound bows, and by now, he’s built up a collection of close to 500 different makes and models.
After retirement, he plans to launch a vintage archery website (he bought three domain names), “that will focus on the golden age of archery,” he said, which includes information about his extensive collection and the many public domain catalogs he also owns.
Morrison also hopes to spend some time with his son in London, where he’s being transferred to Goldman Sachs’ European headquarters.
A public celebration of Morrison’s time at the city of Bonney Lake is being held on Tuesday, May 29 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Justice and Municipal Center, with a special presentation at 4:30.
For more information about the event, call 253-447-3280.