The Nose

The Nose: Welcome to Pierceland, Pam Roach — let the berating begin!

Pam Roach is sworn in Tuesday to the Pierce County Council by her son, Councilman Dan Roach.
Pam Roach is sworn in Tuesday to the Pierce County Council by her son, Councilman Dan Roach. Courtesy

Attention, Pierceland: The Pam Roach cyclone has arrived, and the windows are already rattling!

After a mere three days on the job, your newest county councilwoman, fresh off a 26-year stint in the state Senate, continues to burnish her reputation as the very pineapple of politeness.

The Sniff’s vast network of unnamed sources provided this gem of civility from Roach’s first council study session, held Tuesday, 30 minutes after the Sumner Republican was sworn in while saying, “I look forward to a good and healthy relationship with the entire council, regardless of party.”

During the subsequent study session, Councilman Derek Young, a Democrat, began to hold forth on policy, prompting Roach to say something about how things work in Olympia, where mere legislative staffers don’t have opinions. Those are reserved for elected officials.

Young, reportedly taken aback, said he was in fact an elected official, an actual decider representing the voters of mighty District 7, as in Gig Harbor and surrounding environs. Roach hadn’t made the connection.

In fairness to Councilwoman Pam, Young does look a bit like someone’s generic idea of a bureaucrat. At times, he comes off like a genial, bespectacled accountant determined to explain the niceties of compound interest regardless of your lack of interest. Still, you’d think Roach would have some notion of the people she signed up to work with.

Additional reports from the fateful study session say Roach turned her attention from Young to county staffers, with a tone that was less than flattering, which was a bit odd, since said staffers hadn’t even had the chance to offend her.

No surprise, really — while in the Senate, Roach’s staff-slamming antics led to multiple reprisals from her fellow senators, and a suggestion that she might benefit from anger-management courses.

Her salvo at the study session reportedly raised the ire of Councilman Rick Talbert, who said that wasn’t the Pierce County Way, followed by a gavel rap from Council Chairman Doug Richardson, who told everyone to chill.

Looks like the next four years will be a bumpy ride. Here’s a suggestion from the Sniff, for anyone within Roach’s blast zone: If she places a vase of flowers next to her chair in council chambers, don’t go near them.

The empty chair: Meanwhile, Roach’s departure from the Senate leaves a vacancy, a comfy chair waiting for a sober statesperson type to represent the 31st Legislative District in the Olympia cavern known as the Upper Chamber.

Enter Phil Fortunato, 63, newly elected Republican state representative from the 31st, who looks to be the favorite, thanks to Roach’s behind-the-scenes backing.

The actual decision rests with the combined King County and Pierce County councils, because the 31st straddles the county line, forcing the two councils to meet and make a decision without teeing off on each other.

The councils have to choose from a slate of three candidates, ranked and chosen by the district’s precinct committee officers. As political veterans know, these selections tend to go exactly the way insiders want them to go, which points to Fortunato.

Most pols don’t know this, but Phil’s ancestor starred in an old story by Edgar Allan Poe. The first line: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”

The story ends with Fortunato entombed behind a wall of bricks — the narrator’s payback for one too many bombastic comments about wine.

The real Fortunato is no sommelier, but he does have a knack for slightly wild rhetoric. He served in the Legislature once before, from 1999 to 2001. Who can forget his immortal scoffing at bills named for crime victims?

“What do you do when a mother comes in and testifies that her son got sick because he drank water out of a creek?” he said to the Seattle Times back in the day. “Do we have a new law saying you can’t drink water out of a creek? That’s why you can’t drink water out of a creek! That’s why we have water-treatment plants. Lewis and Clark got sick when they drank water out of a creek.”

Oh sure, you say — that was 17 years ago, when Phil was a mere sprout of 46. But don’t discount experience. He’s had two decades to refine his style. Who knows what jewels will spew from the new and improved version? Good to know the 31st District promises to provide political entertainment for years to come.

Bow down to P-town: Whatever happens in Pierceland in the new political season, it’s plain that Puyallup is in charge, and Tacoma can learn to love scones.

Newly minted County Exec Bruce Dammeier, a Republican, hails from the land where cars cost less, and so does his surprise pick for first mate, or in government parlance, chief operating officer. That would be none other than Dan Grimm, also from Puyallup.

Grimm, a Democrat, represented P-town in the state House from 1977 to 1989, and later served two terms as state treasurer. That’s some heft.

To top it off, Dammeier named Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson as his senior counsel, i.e., legal adviser. That’s a top three without a trace of Tacoma in sight.

Nothing personal, according to the new exec — he intends to work with everybody on everything, and be all civil and stuff. Just don’t expect T-town to drive the agenda. The City of Destiny will have to hope for mercy from the historically nicknamed Land of Generous People. Time to plant daffodils and bone up on Ezra Meeker trivia.

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