It was only natural, to those who know him, that outgoing Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard would spend the bulk of his farewell speech recognizing the work of everyone else.
But Pollard’s modesty didn’t change the fact that the 200 people packed into the room he addressed Wednesday evening were there to thank him.
And after 20 years of public service, there was a lot to say; some of it sentimental, some silly.
And one thing was certain: Pollard’s mark will stay with the city for decades to come.
“No one can claim there has been a better champion for the city,” U.S. Rep. Brian Baird wrote in a letter read on his behalf. “I know I speak for many here when I say, to me, you will always be mayor of America’s Vancouver.”
Pollard’s 14-year tenure as the city’s top elected official saw countless changes: the annexation of east Vancouver, the addition of about 100,000 residents to the city, waterfront development groundwork and the revitalization of downtown and Esther Short Park.
He did it, said longtime city lobbyist Mark Brown, through his own tenacity and love for his community.
“Single-handedly, just by his force, he has literally rebranded this city as America’s Vancouver,” Brown said. “Mr. Mayor, you have made history.”
The crowd was on its feet multiple times, most of all when acknowledging Pollard’s unwavering support of the military.
“Today the mayor asked me to sit down with the mother of a fallen soldier,” with no press releases, media or other ballyhoo, said Schuyler Hoss, Southwest Washington representative for Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Instead, Pollard just wanted to make sure that “Victoria Walz (mother of slain Vancouver soldier Ian Walz) was coming through in the hardest time of her life,” Hoss continued as the mayor and audience dabbed at their eyes. “That work is greater than any bridge or project.”
Pollard also received the Oregon Exceptional Service Medal for his work in 2005 to keep the government from closing the Oregon Air National Guard Base in Portland. About half the airmen stationed there live in Clark County.
But not all the tributes to the retired Army lieutenant colonel drew tears.
“What more can you say about Mayor Pollard that hasn’t been on restroom walls around the world,” city manager Pat McDonnell said to laughs, as Pollard shot back, “All I need is three more votes and you’re out.”
While the phrases “shares with others,” “quiet and reserved,” “does not argue with others,” and “does not swear” may not apply to Pollard, McDonnell said the city will miss his “consummate leadership.”
Members of the city council also took the stage to honor Pollard with a proclamation and the gift of a leather bomber jacket from Pearson Field.
“Royce epitomizes something about leadership — it’s not about oneself, it’s about making others successful,” Councilor Larry Smith said. “And I know many people in this room are successful because of something Royce did.”
The audience stood and held its applause as the mayor finally took the stage, giving a wink to his wife of 44 years, Margaret, and his family.
Pollard said he has no intention of going away, and will return to some form of public service in six months or so.
But Pollard also didn’t bother to temper his trademark bluntness, especially when talking about his adopted community.
“I love it, you should love it, and if you don’t love it, you oughta get out of town,” he said as the crowd cheered and applauded.
His goal all along, he said, was to create a place where his children and grandchildren could live and be prosperous.
“We’ve come a long way as America’s Vancouver, and we have a long way to go,” Pollard said, encouraging the city council to keep moving in a forward direction.
“More important than the next great building we build, it’s the character of our citizens” that will help Vancouver continue to grow, he said. “You all are a bunch of characters and I love you all.”