Lord seeks successor for seat on City CouncilGregerson, Champion set to run, but Wheeler won’t
Citing his own experience, Randy Lord says even our most qualified future leaders often need a little convincing before throwing their hats into the ring.
That’s a big part of why the three-term City Council member says he won’t seek re-election this year – he’s hoping to find a suitable successor.
“It took me years to be convinced that I was qualified to run,” said Lord, who has held the seven-member council’s Position 3 seat since 2006. “I needed other people to tell me I could do it.
“I know there are people out there who are phenomenally talented who may not know that they would be a perfect fit for elected public service. If my story resonates with someone out there, I want to talk to them.”
Lord, 57, retired from Boeing last year. Now, he says he’s more than ready to step back and spend more time traveling with his wife, who he said has been “unbelievably cooperative” since he started his career in public service in 1994 with an appointment to the city’s Parks and Arts Commission.
“I don’t want to wear myself out and become cynical,” he said. “I want to be passionate about whatever I’m doing, so I think it’s time now to pass the torch.”
Candidate filing week begins May 15.
“If by the end of that week no one has filed for my position, someone could walk down there and essentially become a councilmember without a fight,” he said. “I would rather our citizens have a chance to see who’s running and have a discussion around that.”
Lord is not alone. Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Council President Bob Champion and Councilmember Ted Wheeler are up for re-election this November, though Wheeler said he, too, is not planning to run. Both Champion and Gregerson said they intend to defend their positions.
“I'm proud of all that we have accomplished, but I believe there is more to be done, and I want to continue the work,” Gregerson said, citing accomplishments such as cutting license fees for 60 percent of businesses, adding a school resource officer at Kamiak High School and opening up Edgewater Beach.
“I'm looking forward to getting out during my campaign to talk to our community about ideas for next year.”
After growing up an Air Force brat in Japan, Ohio and California, Lord graduated from high school in Spokane before attending Washington State University, where he met his wife – quite literally the electrical engineer to his mechanical engineer.
“It was a mixed marriage,” he said. “We weren’t sure it was going to work. We couldn’t agree who would change a light bulb. She said it’s a mechanical problem because you have to turn a screw and I said it’s an electrical problem.”
After graduating in 1981, the young couple moved to California for four years, where Lord worked for Hughes Aircraft Company. In 1985, they moved back to the Northwest and Lord took a job at Hewlett-Packard. In 1986, they moved into the Harbour Pointe area.
Lord eventually moved on to work at Precor in Woodinville, then the Mukilteo-based company Synrad.
“I was mowing my lawn in 1991, and a guy who was running for City Council in the newly annexed Harbour Pointe area walks down my street and says, ‘Hey, I’m running for City Council on my record on the park board,’” Lord said.
“I asked him where the parks were around there and he couldn’t tell me because there really weren’t any. All the representation was at the north end of the city and all the work was happening there. I asked him why Harbour Pointe wasn’t getting any of the services and he said, ‘You ought to get on the park board.’”
So, he did. That’s where he met Linda Grafer, who founded the Parks and Arts Commission.
“To this day, I affectionately call Linda coach,” he said. “I just wanted to get everything done right away.
“She said, ‘Patience, Randy. We’re no longer in private business. This is public and we have to listen to everybody.’ Soon, I found out I loved collaborating to solve problems.”
After about five years, Grafer asked him to lead the commission.
“She said, ‘It’s your time, Randy,’” he said. “I had not aspired to that. I was always willing to serve and help, but it wasn’t until she called me out that I took on more responsibility.
“That’s been the story all along for me. I think it has to do with seeing my dad’s military career. He wasn’t one for self-aggrandizing. He just served when called upon.”
At the same time, Lord was transitioning from a mechanical engineer to a project manager, drawing on his experience at Hewlett-Packard. At Synrad, he was drafted into management, another promotion he did not seek out.
Upon moving to Boeing, he was soon made a project manager, telling his counterparts they must be able to answer four questions before starting any project: Why are we doing this, what does success look like, what could go wrong and what are you going to do about it?
“If you can’t answer these four questions, stop – your project is in trouble,” he said. “You have to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, otherwise you’re doomed.”
Soon, he was leading high-profile projects, such as design of a cargo door for a 777 freighter.
“I brought in industrial designers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and said you’re all going to work together,” he said.
“We’re going to have dialogue, back and forth, and we’re going to bring in all the stakeholders. We’re going to answer the questions before we create the problems. When we finally introduced this part and put in on the airplane, it worked the first time.
“After that, I was leading all kinds of projects and solving all kinds of problems. Word got out that Randy knew how to get things done, how to herd cats.”
Those skills translated well to public service, he said.
“I found a real overlap of skills,” he said. “In both, you have to get people of different cultures, of different perspectives, to come together for a common good.”
Lord said he found his voice while serving as chair of the commission. Once elected to City Council, he soon became president.
“My approach wasn’t to tell the other councilmembers how to vote,” he said. “It was to encourage them to be objective and find their own voice.”
At annual retreats, he would have everyone list out the issues they cared about, then everyone ranked those issues based on personal priority. The issues that got the highest combined score took priority for the council as a whole.
“That way, staff could see what is most important to all of us, allowing staff to focus on the few things we could all agree were important,” he said. “I would rather finish two projects then start 20.
“This got us to stop pontificating and start talking concretely about what we wanted to accomplish and how we were going to do it.”
‘Running out of steam’
Lord said he’s running out of steam, though he might still consider volunteering on a park project or a committee of some kind.
Lord said over his tenure he has learned to listen to those who are less likely to speak up.
“A good councilmember will recognize that it’s easy to nod and say yes to people who are in your face, but it’s much more difficult to tap into the thoughts of the other 80 percent of people who didn’t have the time or energy to say anything,” he said, noting that he would like to find someone who understands that to step up to replace him.
“I’m looking for people who are fair, objective, deliberate and able to listen to the entire constituency rather than just the loudest voices,” he said.
“I’m also looking for people with humility. I talked to someone recently who said, ‘I’m not sure I’m ready,’ and I said, ‘That’s a good sign.’”
As a black belt, Lord teaches martial arts at Northwest Budokan in Everett.
“The white belts don’t know what they don’t know,” he said. “The green belts think they know everything, but they’re not ready. The brown belts know they’re this close to black, but they’re afraid of getting promoted because they see how much the black belts know, and they don’t think they’re ready.
"I’m looking for those brown belts.”