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Strong supporters of all political parties define Valley

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - With Election Day less than a week away, Valley residents may be wondering about the political make up of the Valley.

At the local level, a dominant political party may not matter. National parties may fight over who will have the Valley's vote, but none of that seems to matter at the local level. Civic leaders have said strong supporters of all parties can be found in the Valley, but political affiliation doesn't seem important when it comes to the day-to-day business of building a community.

"It [local political leadership] is what they call grass roots, I guess," said Kevin Hauglie, president of the Fall City Community Association (FCCA). "I think you would probably find people who are pretty strong on one side or the other of the fence. But it is amazing when people have a similar mind and they want to get something done and what they can get done is amazing."

The Valley is not without its political history. The Weyerhaeuser Co., which ran a lumber mill just outside Snoqualmie for decades, helped build a strong union presence in the Valley. Former Snoqualmie Mayor Charles Peterson, who was a mill worker and union leader, said the union tended to influence the area to lean Democratic.

"In the late 50s, when I got a little bit involved in politics and the Democratic Party, the Valley was very heavily Democratic," Peterson said.

Snoqualmie used to be part of the old 47th District in the state Legislature, which was made up of Renton, Issaquah and all of the Snoqualmie Valley. Peterson said that all the precincts went Democrat during elections and although the mill and its employees' union were located in Snoqualmie, Democratic groups were situated all over the Valley.

"You had two democratic clubs in the Valley, one in the Upper Valley, Mount Si Democratic Club, and then you had one down in Duvall," Peterson said. "They always had pretty good-sized attendance and were active."

That lean to the left changed though as the districts got redrawn in Olympia over the years. Peterson said that when Snoqualmie was put in its current 5th District with Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond, it took a lot of the wind out of the sails of Democrats who couldn't get anyone elected. While there were still strong democratic ties in the Valley, the people who were involved in the Democratic Party got older and no strong leaders really stepped in to lead the Valley's parties.

Communities experience change over the years as new people come in and alter the political make up of certain areas. Peterson said Mercer Island used to be strongly Republican but has since moved more toward a Democratic majority, at least with its state representation. Snoqualmie, however, has seemed to level out with a good chunk of supporters on both sides of the political spectrum.

"You look at the 5th District, which was drawn to be a Republican district, and it is now pretty competitive," Peterson said. "It might be slightly Republican."

Whatever the political makeup of the Valley, it has never seemed to get in the way of getting things done. City Council races are non-partisan, so the first level of government in a community is free of partisan politics. Small communities depend on volunteers to get things done, whether it is to staff a fire department position or fill a city council seat, so looking for a particular political affiliation at the city government level never made much sense. Peterson himself was asked by a mayor with strong Republican leanings, Roy Anderson, to get on board when the Snoqualmie City Council needed a new council member. Whenever something needed to get done, everyone was game, no matter what party they belonged to.

That is the same spirit Max Healea saw in the Valley during his years as a civic leader in the city of North Bend. He was one of the charter members of the North Bend Planning Commission in 1960, along with others like Jim North and Dick Zemp. When the Mount Si Senior Center was constructed in the 1970s, the whole community helped build it. When the center needed painting, Charles Oliver helped lift Healea up to reach the high places.

"I never heard of any real strong political leanings or affiliations among anyone around here," Healea said. "They are all independent. People just want to come out and get involved in government."

When Healea served on the North Bend City Council in the 1970s and was mayor in the 1980s, politics was still a low-key affair. Healea said he was the first candidate for North Bend mayor to post any campaign signs, which he'd made himself, and said volunteers had to go around and knock on doors in town to get enough candidates to run. He said the increase in volunteerism, both in and out of government, in Valley communities is an encouraging trend.

"I was impressed to see 10 names on the Snoqualmie list [of potential candidates to be appointed to the City Council]," Healea said.

Hauglie doesn't think that kind of community involvement will stop, either. Hauglie has been president of the Fall City Community Association (FCCA), a group of community and business leaders from Fall City, for the past year and a half. No one is elected in the association, but it is a way for the unincorporated area of Fall City to have a public voice, especially at the county level. Anyone who wants to gather support or get information out about a regional issue in Fall City stops by the FCCA sooner or later.

Hauglie, who moved to Fall City with his wife Laurie in 1981, said everyone who moves to Fall City usually stays. People drawn by the beautiful rural surroundings, just minutes from a major city, believe they have found everything they are looking for in a home when they come to the Valley.

"It was a family-oriented community [in 1981] and still is today," Hauglie said.

That kind of community fosters volunteers and leadership. In Fall City, many of the volunteer organizations are strong, from Little League to the PTA to Snoqualmie Valley Arts Live.

"That body [FCCA] is just one of many in the community," Hauglie said.

Throughout the years, the Valley has relied on its community members to step up and lead the area. While no one political party may have a monopoly on votes in the area, Valley residents believe it is crucial to be involved with local politics and activities. Everyone seems to have found just the place they want to be and doesn't want anything, especially ugly politics, to mess it up.

"People want this nice, quiet, rural style of living out here and don't want anyone to disrupt it too badly," Healea said.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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