Politics & Government

New County Council members take office, saying partisanship won’t prevent them from working together

They’re the two newest members of the Pierce County Council, sworn in less than a week ago after cruising to easy victories last November. They come from opposing political parties, and they represent different areas of the county, but Councilmen Dave Morell and Marty Campbell say they’re ready to work with fellow members and each other.

Campbell, a Democrat, finished a stint on the Tacoma City Council in 2017. He’s replacing outgoing Councilman Rick Talbert. He represents District 5, which includes East Tacoma, Parkland, Midland and portions of Spanaway.

Morell, a Republican, spent one term in the state Legislature from 2000 to 2002, and also spent 15 years as a county fire district commissioner. He’s replacing outgoing Councilman Dan Roach. He represents District 1, which includes South Hill, Bonney Lake and other communities in East Pierce County.

The News Tribune met recently with Morell, 60, and Campbell, 48, in separate interviews. Both were asked to explain how they view their new duties and how they’ll go about the public’s business as they start their terms this week.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

TNT: What do you do in your “real” job?

Campbell: I’m a community association manager for Salishan Association, like the homeowner’s association for Salishan. I’ve been doing that for three years. I’ve also been a small business owner.

Morell: I’ve always owned a commercial construction company. I’ve been doing that since 1981. I’m a specialty subcontractor. I do concrete repair work. I follow the tilt-up industry. Earthquakes are really good for me. That’s what happened down in Olympia (in 2001). I spent as much time as I could putting buildings back together again that had been red-tagged. In Tacoma, I did all the rehab on Union Station and the courthouse down there. Glued the building back together again. I’ve done a lot of restoration type work. Now I kind of call myself semi-retired

Q: What’s the difference between you and the person you’re replacing?

Morell: Dan Roach is younger than I am, better looking. He’s got a cute family. So there you go (laughs). No, Dan is very thoughtful, he’s very low-key in what he does. I’m similar in that area. I’m not one to stand up and pound my fist and demand attention. For me, though, I don’t like taxes, but I understand that some taxes are necessary. Dan’s situation was that he was pretty anti-tax. Even down in Olympia, he was the same way. From that standpoint, I think I’m a little bit more understanding that certain things take funds to put together. I’ll look at things, I’m not just no.

Campbell: A lot of times Rick Talbert and I look at issues, and we do see the same result, but our pathways might be a little bit different. I look back all the way to high school. We were both leaders in our respective high schools. He was the starting quarterback for the Lincoln Abes. I was the captain of the chess team. I don’t know that I see sharp differences in our approaches or styles. Rick may run a little bit hotter. But he’s always had to work with much more colorful personalities than I have, be it on the City Council or the County Council.

Q: What kind of a decision-maker are you? Do you go from the gut? Make charts and graphs and lists?

Morell: You know, the thing I’ve kind of modeled is listen, learn and lead. I’d much prefer to listen to you talk about what you think needs to be done than interject my opinions. A lot of things I’ve done in the past have been based on that. I like to listen. I will take it all in, I will ponder, and I will take my time making decisions.

Campbell: It kind of comes down to I approach things in a very tactical, analytical way. No matter how much you think you know, you don’t know all the details. I’m pretty goal-oriented. Sometimes there can be an intensity but I try to keep a cap on it. By and large I do try to keep very calm. I would say I got much better at it in the later years on City Council.

Q: The County Council is a 4-3 Republican majority. That is not changing, so a lot of the political math is going to be the same. What do you expect and what do you hope?

Campbell: I expect that we’ll see the vast majority of things, everyone agrees on. All the tension comes down to the few things that you conflict over. There hasn’t been that many times that the divide is a fully partisan divide. I’m going to guess that it’s really only a handful of votes. I’m going to guess that many of the members look at the the importance of the issues and rarely fall back on, this is our caucus, this is your caucus. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen or it won’t happen. And sometimes an issue divides and it just happens to be the partisan line. So I guess that both my expectation and hope is that the actual partisanship doesn’t creep in a whole lot.

Morell: I don’t wear my partisanship on my sleeve. I’m very much a team player. I’ll work with anyone out there. I think the biggest thing is I approach things from a standpoint of what’s the need, what have we attempted in the past, if that hasn’t worked we’ve gotta do something new. (Councilman) Doug Richardson is very open to working with (Councilman) Derek Young, and Derek is a wonk, you gotta love a wonk. Marty, from what I’ve seen, well, Tacoma guy, you know (laughs).

Q: What would you say to people that didn’t vote for you? What don’t they know about you that’s worth knowing?

Morell: I look at quality of life issues. My background is as a parks and rec guy. I’m very much an open-space, outdoor, get out and enjoy life kind of guy. That’s a lot of what we have in my district. We have the Foothills Trail. We’ve got Crystal Mountain. Carbonado. Mount Rainier. Those are places I want people to enjoy. I’m very much open to preservation of open space. For the last seven years, I’ve been an endurance athlete. I ended up losing 50 pounds and started doing endurance racing. We have a very vibrant community. I want people to find jobs in Pierce County so they can work here, play here and they don’t have to take that hour-and-a-half commute.

Campbell: I don’t know what they don’t know about me, but I hope that they would give the trust to me to make a decision that works well for them, for the entire district and the county. I come from a background in rural Nebraska but also have been a small business owner, and I have legislative experience. I have a lot of life experience in a variety of different areas that will hopefully help me to connect with the needs and concerns of those who didn’t vote for me this time. Maybe they can give me a chance and share with me what their concerns are, and still understand that I’ll represent them.

News Tribune investigative reporter Sean Robinson won the 2016 Ted Natt First Amendment award for ongoing scrutiny of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s office. Since 2000, he has produced award-winning coverage related to criminal justice, government accountability and public disclosure.
  Comments