Our roving researcher
Any organization can be thought of as a pyramid: the base, the largest area, is made up of low to mid-level employees who go about their jobs, doing whatever the level of managers above them dictates. It is only at the very top of each pyramid, the capstone, where CEOs and board chairs sit, that the deepest truths of that organization’s agenda could be known.
Now imagine a cluster of pyramids representing banking, insurance, military, real estate, finance, government, etc. Atop each pyramid sit a few people – the same people on each capstone! The CEO of one corporation is on the board of three others. In other words, power begets power. The same few individuals hold great power over our lives.
Do things run in a similar fashion at the local municipal level? Below is a snapshot of some of the most connected people in Thurston County. Often, wealthy individuals overseeing large budgets and/or workforces, real estate dealings and holdings, military and/or government contracts. Many know each other and have business dealings with one another. The fun lies in determining where they intersect.
• Fred Goldberg—Board Member and Owner of Saltchuk Resources (which owns TOTE Maritime having a major interest in the LNG facility that was planned for Tacoma, Foss Maritime, Aloha Air Cargo, and many other shipping/distribution companies, with annual revenues of $2.7B), longtime Board Chair of Panorama, Board Member of Columbia Bank (with more than $12B in assets), longtime Board of Trustees member (currently Vice Chair, formerly Chair) of The Evergreen State College (TESC), and Board Member of Initiative for Global Development
• Denny Heck—US Congressional Representative for District 10, net worth estimated over $7M, co-founded Intrepid Learning Systems (sold partially to Xerox in 2014 and the remainder sold to VitalSource in 2017), co-founded TVW in 1993, and early investor in RealNetworks
• Doug Mah—Owner of Doug Mah & Associates (clients include FORMA Construction, Thomas Architecture Studios, SCJ Alliance, Network Communications International, The Boys and Girls Club of Thurston County, TOGETHER!, The Roundtable of Thurston County, The Port of Olympia, Cheryl Selby, Joe Downing, and Chris Lanese), former Mayor and former City Council Member of Olympia, Board Vice Chair of Capital Medical Center (owned by RCCH HealthCare Partners), Board of Trustees Chair of South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), longtime Board Chair of Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU), Lobbyist (or head of Public Policy Division) of Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Board Member of Thurston County Food Bank, Club Service Chair and Political Candidate Forum Facilitator for Gateway Rotary, and Thurston Mason Advisory Council Member for Bloodworks Northwest
• Ralph Munro—Former Secretary of State of Washington, Board Member of Panorama, Board Member of TVW, Board President of Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, Member of Mainstream Republicans of Washington, Former Board of Trustees Member of Western Washington University, Former Co-Chair of the International Taskforce of the Council of State Governments, Former President Seattle Rotary, Former Board Member of Thurston First Bank (now merged with Commencement Bank with over $300M in combined assets), Former Board Member of Prepared Response, Inc (acquired by Venuetize in 2017), and many other former Boards
• Cheryl Strange—Washington Department of Social & Health Services Secretary (with over $7B annual budget and over 18,000 employees), former CEO Western States Hospital, Former Assistant Director for DSHS Mental Health Division
• Steve Hall—City Manager of Olympia, Former Assistant City Manager of Olympia (with over $150M annual budget), Member (or Former Member?) of Olympia Kiwanis
• Karen Fraser—Former Washington State Senator for Legislative District 22, Former Thurston County Commissioner, Former Mayor of Lacey, Board of Trustees Chair of The Evergreen State College (TESC), Board of Trustees Member of Humanities Washington, Board Member Olympia World Affairs Council, Advisory Board Member of UW Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, Former President of Washington State Association of Counties, Former Adjunct Faculty at TESC, and many other Former Boards
• Charles Strader—CEO and CFO of Panorama (around 400 employees)
• Jon Tunheim—Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney, Board President of United Way of Thurston County, Board of Regents Member and Past Chair of Leadership Thurston by Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Member of Olympia Rotary, Former Board Member of Childcare Action Council, Former Board Member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington, Former Board Member of Family Support Center of South Sound, and many other Boards
• David Schaffert—Longtime President/CEO of Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Coordinating Council Chair of Thurston Thrives, Board of Regents Member of Leadership Thurston, Board Member of United Way of Thurston County, Board Member of Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, Port of Olympia Vision 2050 Taskforce Member, Board Member (or Former Member?) of Thurston Transportation Oriented Development, and Former Lobbyist (or Director of Governmental Affairs) of Olympia Master Builders
• Roger Millar—Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary (over 7,000 employees)
• Sam Reed—Former Secretary of State of Washington, Former Thurston County Auditor, Founding Board Member and Chair Emeritus of Mainstream Republicans of Washington, longtime Board Member and Board Chair of TVW, Member and Former President of Olympia Kiwanis, Former Board of Trustees Member of Washington State Historical Society, Former President of Ballet Northwest, and many other Boards
• Brian Vance—Board Chair of Heritage Financial Corporation (over $5B in assets), longtime Former CEO of Heritage Bank, and Former Board of Trustees Member of SPSCC.
This list was created by an Olympia native whose hobby is finding connections.