Ripped from Port Angeles Unearthed Blog
A candid interview with Mimi Smith, candidate for city council
Hats of to CK for bringing this forward
A Candid Date
What follows is a cut and paste of a back and forth Q&A session with Port Angeles City Council candidate Marolee Smith. In the comments section below, I will first copy the question I sent to her, and then, as comments below each of those, cut and paste the responses Marolee sent in. Yours comments and questions will, I hope, follow those.
Thanks to Marolee for participating. And, one more time, let me extend an invitation to all you other candidates out there. This blog is a forum to talk directly to several hundred voters in Port Angeles and Clallam County. (The readership of this blog is certainly more than the margin of victory – or defeat – in many recent elections. That’s something to think about candidates…)
Posted by Crypt Kicker at 6:22 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Crypt KickerMay 24, 2015 at 6:22 AM
Please tell us a little about yourself and your background, and how you think your overall life experience relates to your being the best choice for City Council. Include whatever details you think are relevant, and don’t be afraid to be creative or express unconventional thoughts/perspectives.
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:26 AM
I was born in California, raised in Nevada, until my family moved to Tehran, Iran. Returned to the states and lived in California (with a brief time back in Nevada, and Hawaii). I have traveled, too. I’m not, fully, sure how I ended up here. Serendipity.
In fact, much of my life can be summed up as serendipitous.
Out of high school started out taking community college classes in Administration of Justice. I modeled (runway and fitting, mostly) to support myself in college. I really wanted to be was a police officer. (It was just when affirmative action was foisting women on male oriented positions.) I became an ambulance attendant (pre-EMT) as a woman in a very-masculine world. Went through special women-in-law-enforcement academy workshops. I passed tests, and oral boards and was on many waiting lists for police departments around the SF Bay Area. I took up, as a hobby, lobbying in Sacramento to pass consumer protection laws. I worked to get petitions signed. I made thousands, upon thousands of phone calls. (And, it really pisses me off that nearly all the laws I worked on have since been neutered.)
While waiting for a police department opening, I worked for corporations. Mostly in the computer rooms, online centers, etc., and, moved up, eventually as department manager, and analyst. I did research, and wrote volumes of reports for the upper management. At the point when I was finally called up to be hired on with a police department, I decided to stay in the corporate world.
Then, whole business community was hit hard hit by the Carter Administration recession. I ended up unemployed. I must have sent out a thousand resumes, and went to a hundred interviews. I worked multiple jobs: waitress; dishwasher; bar back; bartender; house painter; janitor; gardener; maid; temp office worker; valet;..you name it. Usually several different jobs the same week, some two part-time jobs in a day. For a few months, I cleaned rest rooms for twelve hours, four nights a week — dusk to dawn — in a high rise office building. (One of the circles of hell, undoubtedly, involves toilet scrubbing.) I still couldn’t make enough money to keep up with bills. I became homeless for a year (couch surfing, camping, living in a 68 VW bug, only resorting to shelters on the coldest of nights). Oh yeah, I was a single mom (divorced), too. It was a real struggle. I was was the homeless/working. I kept my son in school, and in after-school programs. I juggled child care, laundry, food and work — it was a such a blur. I can remember being so tired that the greatest luxury in the world was five-more-minutes of sleep.
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:26 AM
In my scarce “free time”, I hung out in the SF comedy scene (most of my closest friends are still comedians). I wrote jokes for a few dollars, sometimes, and picked up other writing gigs as I could get them. I found my community. I got the idea to start a stand-up comedy circuit in the San Joaquin Valley — to get my friends (comics) booked at community colleges, interviewed in newspapers, on radio stations, and in some clubs that I contracted with. I did a few big shows (with outside investors). Never made much money, but that was never the point. I wrote an inside comedy column for the local Hearst Newspaper. I was also working with a friend (full-time) who had opened a software distribution company (out of a garage, back when Microsoft was also in a garage). Our company sold 3/4 of all the product Microsoft produced in those early years. I did it all: sales, marketing; advertising; answering tech calls; shipping; returns; bookkeeping, etc. I was moonlighting, too. Nights and weekends I did business consulting for software garage start-ups (corporate image, product package design, how to set up the books, and write business plans to get funding, getting receipts together to file back taxes, etc.) and weekends I worked in a comedy club as a bartender. When I left the distribution company had more than seventy employees. I had written the organization’s manuals, organized the books and taxes, and helped build our first office space.
I started working for a computer magazine columnist. I did research, bookkeeping, and then started writing, editing and organizing books. We did more than a dozen books, together. I did marketing and booked his speaking engagements. Somewhere in there we married, had kids — all while working together 24/7 – 365 days a year. I decided I was sick of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I went searching for somewhere that “spoke to me”. Port Angeles did. I bought a house in town 20+ years ago. It was a fixer-upper. Some years I would live up here, but travel weekly to the SF Bay Area. Others years, I would split my time between the states in multiple-month chunks. About 9 years ago, I moved up here full-time.
(Still married. We prefer different states. It works for us.)
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:27 AM
I opened a downtown business — Spicer’s Deli. It began just as the Gateway Center’s building began (I had asked the city a few weeks earlier about the project and was told “we don’t know when it will start”. Joke was on me.) I endured through **surprise** street closures, pounding that would shake the glass spice jars off the shelves, and other city-fueled insanity. I had a few run-ins with city hall (with me screaming at Cutler and him telling me I was on a “need to know basis, and I didn’t need to know” when the street would be closed). Didn’t help that was the same time that the ferry had passport restrictions, and the economy tanked. Bad timing, but we made great sandwiches. It was a frustrating and costly experiment.
I petitioned — paid, and received — a permit to use the Gateway’s transit lanes for a Port Angeles Community Market on Sundays, which I ran for two years. Then my brother committed suicide. (My parents had long since passed. I only had one sibling.) I just didn’t have the heart to keep pushing. I turned inward. I focused on life at home. I completed a 4-year project: a dense, single subject, 500 page cookbook on eggs (Too Many Eggs). It’s being shopped to publishers. I am working on the definitive “dog treat” cookbook. I do research, occasional odd writing jobs, and read. I mow my lawn, battle moss, and wild blackberries. (I’m not very social. I don’t belong to clubs. Never really enjoyed that stuff.) I tend to stay home and hang out with my dogs. I have very little ambition of a political nature. I’ve spent most of my life working behind the scenes (comedy producer, consultant, ghost writer), so being out-there is not my comfort zone.
But, here I am. I’m a hard worker. I am resourceful. I believe I can make a difference because I believe in community.
I’m doing this because I can’t understand “leadership” we have. I don’t like the decisions they have made. I am tired of not answers to question. I’m tired of the city balancing their budget by taking money out of MY wallet. I’m sick to death of insincere happy-talk. I’m fed up.
I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life. Some very rough times. The way I got out was by being creative, and fearless.
I think the city council needs someone who is both of those things.
Crypt KickerMay 24, 2015 at 6:28 AM
What was it that motivated you to run for City Council? Was it a slow burn that finally boiled over, or was there one larger catalytic event that got you to sign up?
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:28 AM
When things collide. The planets aligned. It is unfathomable, even to me.
I had “toyed” with the idea for the last two elections, but I don’t like politics. I don’t care about popularity contests. I don’t have that kind of personality (or ego). I figured it was hopeless, like everything else around here. (Note: failed businesses…frustration…can’t fight city hall. Been there, done that.)
Port Angeles Unearthed had a huge impact.
Seeing that other people are as frustrated as I am — helped.
What really threw me over the edge was when the city council snubbed the young woman who came to speak about heroin problems. That enraged me. I wanted to confront them all, probably with a few profanities thrown in. (oops).
I fought with myself for the week.
Here I am.
Crypt KickerMay 24, 2015 at 6:29 AM
For question number three…What do you see as the main three issues facing the city that you’d like to talk about during your campaign? Feel free to be as detailed as you need to be.
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:30 AM
1.) The City Council needs to do more independent research, be better informed, and to look beyond what the staff presents. I think the lax and, perhaps, naivete culture needs to come to an end. The Council needs to start THINKING. The Council should represent the Citizens and direct the staff. The Council should fully understand the long term ramifications, the responsibility, of every action they take.
It is a solemn undertaking, period.
Right now, I don’t see that reflected in the meetings themselves, or the actions they take, or even the way they speak to each other. Sure, they SAY nice things to each other, but it comes across as hollow and insincere. There is no humility. There is a disconnect. It is evident in the attitudes at meetings where the overall attitude is patronizing superiority over the mere town-folk. It’s mealy-mouthed saying how our input is important, but then, not listening.
Lines of communication need to be opened. We need town meetings, and working council sessions, and citizen advisory groups. Just showing up at the farmers market, or reciting the email address shouldn’t be grand example of “see we do something”. The City Council needs to address the needs of the citizens by reaching out to them, asking questions, and listening.The citizens need to speak up, step up, and show up. Stop quashing discussion. We need to disagree. WE need to shout and spit, and rage and get out all the things we’ve repressed. We need to stop being afraid, and start speaking up. We need to cooperate, and coordinate, and compromise. We need to have all the information. Take us out of the dark, and lay it all on the table.
Let the sun shine in.
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:31 AM
2.) Lets face it, this city is stuck in an illusion. We are no longer a “mill town”. We will never, again, have that industry dominate. We lack an identity.
Who are we? We don’t know how to market ourselves. (A lot of happy talk and online stuffing of a ballot box won’t make people like us more.) We change our b.s. slogans too often. We are flailing about. “We’re this, we’re that. Look how pretty we spruced things up…”
Lets face it: We are boring. We aren’t FUN. We come off as insecure, insincere, wet blankets. (“Oh, please, please like us…”)
The town has forgotten (or never valued) the small-town charm that we used to exude. And, it wasn’t to whore ourselves out to lure elusive tourists. (But people came, because it was fun). We used to have festivals, and downtown parades. We had really great special events for children. We had FUN. We closed off First street with art events, lined Front street with antique cars on display, and, we had a thriving, beautiful farmers market on Laurel where it belonged (not cramped in the dark shadows, off to the side). Most importantly: We supported our small businesses. We shopped downtown. We went out to dinner. We were a community. We engaged with our neighbors. We shopped locally. We celebrated our community.
Now? We point to the mountains, to the ferry, and bitch about why no one comes to see US. It’s like going to visit those old relatives who just talk about how much their feet hurt, and complain about the weather. Boring.
We need to come together with an identity.
We need to stop being so dull.
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:31 AM
I’d like to see a children’s play area, a babbling brook or some fun water feature on the “esplande” for children to play in. I’d like to see more festivals. I’d like the Farmer’s Market to be on Laurel in the summers. I’d like to see sidewalk chalk art and art cars, a fire festival, a big motorcycle and antique car rally (and cruise…we have the best downtown for an old fashioned cruise), I’d like to see a soap box derby, and a cartoon festival. I’d like to see plays and street performers, have parades every month all summer long. I’d like to see outdoor movies in the Gateway cavern. Heck, I’d like a big wooden roller coaster along our newly minted beaches. I’d like a carousel with carved wooden horses. I’d like to see a place full of life. I’d like to see people laughing, again, downtown.
a.) I think that every time the economic development types start talking about getting in some big business, they are slapping our existing small/medium sized businesses. Chances are no one is asking what they need to be more profitable. Instead, we chase the illusion of a “big employer”. Heck, these “leaders” bend over very, very far to ass-kiss the “big employers” but, fail to recognize the many self-employed, small- and medium-sized businesses that are the real majority employers in town. (Just think what would happen if every small business in town could hire one more person.)
Face it: There is not going to be a tornado set a fully working factory in the center of town (while killing the evil witch).
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:32 AM
b.) We put our trust in outside consultants, and in magic thinking about magic money — grants and free hand-outs. We keep wishing that something will come and be our economic windfall, free-and-clear, with no investment and a “no-brainer” on our part. I’m tired of being seen as a consumer, when I’m really a citizen. I’m sick of the all mighty dollar trumping human decency.
We need to tighten the city belt, and stick with priorities and budgets.
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:33 AM
3.) We are a bunch of crabs sitting in a nice pot of water. Temperature rises, and although we might notice, it’s not hot enough to be uncomfortable until it’s too late, and we’re all cooked. What’s the problem? The water? The entity controlling the stove? Nope. The problem is all of US.
We each need to do our part to make our community. That’s big things, that’s little things, every bit counts. We need to be unified. Right now, we are splintered up, hiding out, keeping to ourselves, and hope that voting is enough. We point at each other, we call each other names. We divide via religion. We divide by age. We need to ONE GROUP. Right now, we assume that whom-ever we elected will make miracles happen because we did our part, “we voted”. So, when a new person is elected, and then when they fail to sway the sitting group, it’s “off with their heads.” This is bullshit. Our town is falling apart because of ALL OF US. Every single one of us can do more to make our community work. We need to care. It’s our community. It’s our town. It’s not just electing someone, it’s about YOU. It is about growing a spine, standing upright, speaking out. We have to stop being afraid and join together.
The water is getting hot… it is time to get out of the damn pot.
I’d like to see Town Hall meetings, and the town carved up into neighborhoods — with neighborhood watches and representatives, and block-long garage sales and barbeques. We can own our community. I’d like to see a town picnic, and cook-offs, and contests for the most reduced water usage, or the most recycling, or collecting the most pennies to donate to a local cause. I’d like to see a town concerned about the homeless who are amongst us. The bored kids. The drug addicted. The struggling people — the sick, the old. They are part of our town, too. (Let’s all repeat: “there, but for the grace of god, go I”.)
We need to become one community. Connection. Caring. Compassion.
We’re sitting here at the intersection of one road in, one road out. We’re in a tsunami zone, in an earthquake zone. In the flash of a second we can be cut off, (and, low priority for the rest of the world). What do we do then? What do we do if we are alone, stranded, out here on the peninsula, for what may be many months? I wonder. We live with this every day, every moment of our lives, but we walk around acting like we’re all islands in the stream, apart and independent.
I’d like to see this town work as a community, to the envy of every other small town in America.
Yeah, that’s it, KUMBAYA. (I know. I know.)
But, all it takes is 10% and everything changes.
Crypt KickerMay 24, 2015 at 6:33 AM
(Question and response edited at request of the candidate.) Recent City Council history…Larry Williams left town as soon as his third term was over. Larry Little only served a couple of days before resigning. Max Mania left town before his term was up. Sissi Bruch tried to jump ship to the County Courthouse before her first term was up. Now Lee Whetham is trying to jump ship for the Port before his first term is up. Given all that, and given the well documented dysfunction and frustration associated with the Port Angeles City Council…What would you say to a voter who may support your candidacy, but has concerns about your own longevity in City Hall if elected?
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:34 AM
My whole family has wanted me to leave here, for years.
I like my home. I like my land. I find life here, mostly, conducive to my work. (I like where I am, aside from the politics in this berg.)
The dysfunction goes back, much further than that recent history. I have some grasp on the legacy crazy that has infected this area. The only hopeful light on the horizon is that a number of the power brokers are aging, or have already passed on.
I have no desire to move onto a higher office.
Crypt KickerMay 24, 2015 at 6:35 AM
In your other responses, you describe yourself as “creative and fearless,” and say that you’re “too idealistic for this job.” So, as a creative and fearless person, how do you see yourself working with other Council members who are not at all creative, and who are very clearly afraid of many things? And as an idealistic person, how do you see yourself working with Council members who are cynical, self-serving, or otherwise there for less than idealistic reasons? In other words, how do you see yourself changing/affecting the dynamic of the City Council?
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:36 AM
I think Sissi has good ideas. I really like Dan Bateham, he’s a good guy, and have had coffee with him. I’d hope he is elected. I like the comments that Lee Whetham bring up. I think that Brad Collins is, ultimately, rational. ( — those are the things that come to mind, not meaning to slam anyone, else)
I’ve spent years working with difficult people. I worked in the corporate world — and it was the typical engineers v.s. the salespeople/workers v.s. the management. It was shocking to find how when I stepped from worker to management, how I was suddenly “the enemy”.
I have worked for some pretty darn cantankerous people, and managed to get along, sometimes diplomatically, sometimes through sheer force of will, smarts and persistence. (Sometimes people like me, sometimes people don’t. That never matters. It’s not about me — its about getting things done.)
Cynical is a state of mind, just like unhappy, just like lazy. I like to find the best in people, and encourage that.
What I always bring to the table is that I do my research. I think questions are vital. Following through on actions is much more important than mere words.
I believe in the system (how it should work) and loath corruption and secrets. But, let be realistic. We are never going to have a “perfect system” — because people and money are involved — but we can have a better one. We can give more weight to the people who are trying to look out for the town (on the staff).
I think there are some great staff members. I just don’t see why the City Council is burdening the staff with doing their job (the research). That is shameful.
Crypt KickerMay 24, 2015 at 6:36 AM
The Doomsday Question. First, let’s say there’s some sort of revolt at the ballot box, and two new people get elected. At the same time, Sissi Bruch grows a spine, and another Council member suddenly grows a brain. So you have four votes to “do things” or “change things.” If all this were to come to pass, how much room to maneuver would the Council have given, A) The HUGE debt-load the City is carrying, and will carry for years to come, and B) An entrenched staff that is, at best, self-serving and unresponsive to the community? In other words, how much change can is it realistic to hope for, given there will be no money, and a change-resistant culture in City Hall?
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:37 AM
I respect the city CFO. I think he is talented and has a good grasp on the financial pickle our city is in because of past “drunken sailor” spending. I trust him to make the hard decisions. It’s not going to be pretty, though. We have made some very, very bad decisions and some of those were purely ego/greed based. Some were simply naive and wishful thinking.
But, I don’t think “the staff” is solely to blame. The staff are doing their jobs. They are doing the City Council’s job, as well.
The Council should be doing THEIR research on every topic that shows up. I don’t think just getting a packet of information and a quick run down by the staff is ever going to be enough for a really informed decision. It is lazy. The Council should be asking the staff questions, asking for research, using the staff the way that MOST City Councils, across the country do things. The Council should be engaging the citizens — reaching out, not passively waiting for them to show up at a meeting.
(Without a voice, I’m shocked there are so many people at the meetings to begin with. The public comments are met with indifference, and the wrong people are praised as if they were newly anointed saints.)
Marolee SmithMay 24, 2015 at 6:38 AM
The problem is not the staff. They go to work. They do their jobs. They do what is expected of them. They’re filling the void.
The problem is that the system is not working the way it was designed. There should be a balance. It’s a dance — both partners need to do their part.
The city staff will ALWAYS want to have more. Bigger, better, FUN projects, nicer tools, newer equipment, and have more money for their departments, bigger raises, and whatever else that employees always want. That is just how it is. Can’t blame them for taking over where the Council fails.
The Council is supposed to be looking out for the people, and acting like the good parent. “No cookies, it’s too close to dinner.” I just can’t decide if the Council is more of the overly-passive, insecure parent “Oh, if you want it…okay.” or, the absentee alcoholic one.
My biggest complaint is that the Council is just going through the motions, passively, instead of thinking things through and being engaged. There is no vision for the future. It’s as if showing up at the meetings is enough.
Some of this is, indeed, a carry-over from the legacy “how it has always been done”. For 20 years I’ve watched the Council, and I can say, it’s better than when it was at it’s worst. Over the last few years things have been changing — change never happens overnight. It’s a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. The biggest change starts with a goal.
I think that Mr. Mania made some positive inroads, and shook things up enough to crack the facade. I don’t think that what people called “failure” was that at all. It was the first step. He was the martyr.
Simply electing one, or two, new faces is not going to affect the kind of change that needs to happen. The danger is that they, too, become sacrificial lambs. It’s a start. But it’s not the whole picture. The citizens need to become involved. I understand the fear about stepping up (because we’re a town full of anonymous), but we need to step up and back the candidates we do elect — and push. Get loud and vocal. We need our own, Port Angeles, version of the Arab Spring.
A single voice is a very eerie sound. Many voices can shake the earth itself.