By Pat Grubb
On hiring a new reporter or editor, I typically sit them down and give a short talk about how we approach the news in our corner of the world. I always tell them to treat elected and non-elected community leaders with respect. You may not agree with their opinions or political viewpoint, I say, but they are contributing and giving back to the community and usually for little or no pay.
On December 31, Patrick Alesse completed his last term as commissioner for the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District, a position he held since he was appointed in 1997. Patrick speaks quietly but forcefully, thoughtfully and intelligently.
A former teacher, he and his wife Patricia founded and ran The C-Shop, an ice cream, candy – and childhood summer memory – making emporium just steps from the shores of Birch Bay. Twice a month, for 22 years, Patrick has attended board meetings, deliberated with fellow commissioners and steered policy for this critical part of community utility infrastructure.
This is not exciting work for most people. One day as I covered a district meeting, the sound of my pen slipping from my hand and hitting the floor was the only thing that prevented me from falling into full-blown unconsciousness. Man, those meetings could be deadly and yet those meetings represented just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the work that the commissioners had to do in preparation.
And while that on-going, humdrum stuff drew no attention from the community, let a new tax be proposed to replace aging infrastructure or a sewer line back up and you could be assured the shite would hit the fan.
Patrick is not alone in his public service. Local examples abound. Madeleine Anderson is on her fourth term at the Point Roberts water district since being elected in 1999; fellow commissioner Scott Hackleman has been sitting since 2007; Bill Meursing has served on both the fire and water boards, Arthur Reber has taken on water and parks – numerous others have served more than one term on both elected and non-elected boards. Elsewhere, Charles Gibson and recently retired Mike Dodd have spent many years at the Blaine school district. And what about our volunteer firefighters who commit countless hours to protect our homes and businesses?
It’s not easy to get people to commit to these positions. Try to find someone who’s still kicking and screaming to serve on a cemetery board and you’ll see what I mean. Our county auditor had to schedule a special filing period last election due to the number of county races where no names were put forward.
In this country, we very appropriately thank members of our armed forces for their service whether they are the tip of the spear or a line cook in the canteen. Arguably, people like Patrick Alesse, Madeleine Anderson, Scott Hackleman and the others named here make as significant a contribution to keeping our democracy strong and vital.
There should be a national holiday called Unsung Heroes Day or Service to America Day where their contribution would be celebrated and honored.
In the meantime, to all of you, thank you for your service. Job well done!