But he still grasped the opportunity to shape a fledging city.
Richardson said he didnt set out to serve on the council as long as he did. But as the years and terms passed, there was always, in his words, something else to do.
Richardson departs the City Council for the Pierce County Council on Tuesday. Now 58 years old, he said much of what he wanted to do has been done. Hes the last member of the original council in Pierce Countys second-largest city.
Richardson demurred when asked about individual accomplishments, saying he was one of seven council members who set policy for Lakewood to follow.
He is, however, proud that his tenure is marked with Lakewood starting its own police department, beginning redevelopment of a once-crime-ridden stretch of Pacific Highway, extending sewers to Tillicum and Woodbrook, two of the citys poorest neighborhoods, and bringing Sounder commuter rail service to the city.
Asked how he sees his legacy, the departing mayor said he hopes he created a sense of community and identity and that Lakewood has grown from an infant in 1995 to being a regional player on matters of importance.
If I had something to do with that, Id feel pretty good, he finished.
One disappointment for Richardson is that the city hasnt done more to have utility lines buried underground. He said this would make Lakewood more attractive and improve reliability for customers.
Richardson a husband, father of two grown children and a retired brigadier general in the Army Reserve said he leaves city government in good hands. The current council, he said, is dynamic and engaged.
I have never been more excited about the City Council than I am now, he said. Theyre just poised to do some really great things.
Twelve people have applied to succeed Richardson for the interim period before his seat comes up for election in November. Richardson said he wont take part in the council discussion tonight about the next steps toward making that appointment.
Richardson is one of only three people to have served as Lakewood mayor, and the only mayor to preside in two separate stints in 2004-05, and from 2008 to the present.
Lakewood voters dont independently elect a mayor; he or she is selected from among the council members. The council will select a new mayor and deputy mayor to serve out the remainder of the year on Jan. 22.
Richardson is getting up to speed with his new County Council district, which includes Steilacoom and DuPont. His first priorities are to ensure the sheriffs substation in Parkland opens and assist efforts to ease Interstate 5 congestion through Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Richardson made one of his final public appearances as a city leader Friday at his monthly Coffee with the Mayor forum. His deadpan humor that has marked many a City Council meeting was on display as he updated the audience on city happenings.
He told the crowd his move to the City-County Building in downtown Tacoma isnt a long one.
I tell people Im going to the Russian embassy because its a butt-ugly building, he said.
After the meeting, community members praised Richardsons service and contributions to Lakewood.
Longtime resident Cindy Baij called the mayor a treasure to the community and said he was always available to lend a hand when asked.
His response was always, What do you need and when do you need it? said Baij, who led the effort to prevent a prison work release program from moving to Western State Hospital from Tacoma.
Joan Cooley, a member of the city Landmarks and Heritage Advisory Board, said she appreciates Richardson helping balance the citys budget while recognizing the hardships that increased taxes and fees can put on residents.
I think hes a very thoughtful person and really respects the citizens, she said. One doesnt always find that in public office.
Councilwoman Marie Barth, who has finished her first year on the council, said Richardsons institutional knowledge has helped her get familiar with local issues.
He has been a tremendous mentor, and hes been a good friend to the city of Lakewood, she said.
Christian Hill: 253-274-7390