Pam Roach’s outsized personality is still felt at the state Capitol one year after she ended her 26-year legislative career to take a seat on the Pierce County Council.
The irascible Sumner Republican, known for wielding a firm gavel and a sharp tongue, served as president pro tem her last couple years in Olympia, the No. 2 command post on the Senate floor.
She was delighted to hear how Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, voted last week when senators elected a Democrat president pro tem on the first day of the 2018 session.
“Roach!” Baumgartner called out during the voice vote, ignoring that Republicans no longer rule the Senate and that Roach doesn’t work there anymore.
A few laughs echoed. Was it our imagination, or did they sound nervous at the thought of it?
It wouldn’t surprise us if Roach pines for her glory days of state power. She had to resign from her 31st Legislative District seat last January after winning election to the local government job.
And now she’s been bumped from the leadership post she held with a strong, often domineering, hand in her first year on the Pierce County Council.
Roach’s stint as chairwoman of the council’s Economic & Infrastructure Development Committee was a wild ride, to put it mildly. Removing her was absolutely the right call by Council Chairman Doug Richardson, who’s in charge of committee assignments.
The rest of the council apparently agrees. They voted 6-0 (Roach was absent) in favor of Richardson’s committee recommendations.
Roach’s pattern of discourteous behavior, disorderly meetings and hectoring of staff placed Richardson in an awkward position on how to handle her. She gives Republicans a narrow 4-3 majority on council; without her, Richardson wouldn’t be chairman.
As it turns out, Richardson will lead the economic committee, as he’s done in the past. The Lakewood Republican said Wednesday he hopes it will position him for a role in the Tacoma-Port of Tacoma subarea planning process, which will shape the county’s industrial future.
Always the diplomat, Richardson would not tell us that Roach did anything wrong as committee chair. But he allowed that “group dynamics” and “how members interact with each other” are factors in assignments.
We’ll take the liberty to fill in the blanks. Roach brought the same truculent, disruptive antics to county government that characterized her years at the Capitol and got her in hot water with her own Senate Republican caucus. Her poor treatment of staff, in particular, is damaging to employee morale and effective government.
To her credit, Roach has not reacted to her demotion the way we thought she would — through her usual social-media outbursts and lathered-up calls to The News Tribune.
In an email this week, Roach took the high road: “The first rule of being a great leader is to know how to follow. I can do both … Whatever my role, I will outwork most and still have the energy to help others. It will be a great 2018!”
In a phone call Thursday, she expressed impatience with committee work and said she can be a greater force for the local economy outside the meeting room.
Roach retains a voice as one of five council members on the economic development committee; her perspective is important because the Port lies in her district.
For all of Roach’s faults, her legislative experience, statewide contacts and record of responsiveness to constituents can be assets to the county.
But by keeping a gavel out of her hand for at least a year, the Pierce County Council has struck an unmistakable tone of professionalism for 2018.