Boldt going out of office, still into serving

Outgoing county commissioner wants to keep working in social services, volunteering

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Marc Boldt isn't done with politics.

At least he doesn't think he's done with politics. Boldt, who lost his re-election bid for Clark County commissioner to David Madore, says he doesn't have a future office in mind. Nor is he committing to running. But at age 58, with 18 years of elected public service, he believes he's still electable, and he says despite some of the talk around the county, he knows he's still a Republican.

Boldt didn't just lose an election, he lost his party. The local Republican Party leadership, believing Boldt had strayed too far from the path of conservative values, gave Madore its blessing to challenge Boldt.

Madore will be sworn into office Wednesday.

"I have thought a lot about this," Boldt said in a recent interview. "The Republican party hasn't left me. The executive committee was mad at me. But I still believe in the platform and I still believe in the principles. I am a Republican."

Those who say Boldt has changed aren't wrong. There is no doubt he's moved to the middle, but he says his conservative values are intact.

"I think the local Republican Party has a different view of a conservative than I do," Boldt said. "I believe being conservative means protecting the liberty and freedom of the people."

And Boldt says a big part of protecting those ideals for folks is to have compassion.

Social services

When Boldt was first elected to the state Legislature in 1994, he was told if he wanted to be involved as a freshman, he simply needed to raise his hand for an appointment when no one else did.

"When the Children and Family Services committee came around, no one put their hand up, so I put mine up," Boldt said. "I think, because of that, those years moved me."

Boldt says he believes he did "landmark" work through the panel as it tackled welfare reform and social issues dealing with drug and alcohol addiction.

"What changed me was the lives of other people," Boldt said. "That, and you realize how you really make things happen. You realize that the far right and the far left will spend a lot of time yelling at each other. But it's the people in the middle that get things done. And when you come into leadership, you have to get things done, even if you don't always agree."

Boldt is uncomfortable taking the credit for what he's helped accomplish. You see it in his body language and in his speech. He shirks away a bit when people praise him. Ask about his accomplishments, and he'll start talking about the work others have done to make the county better.

Earlier this month, on a visit to Grace Lodge, a substance abuse recovery home near Daybreak Park, Boldt was greeted by hugs from the staff. He says the county was looking for something good to do with the dilapidated, former party house of a Saudi millionaire that ended up in the public trust. This simply made sense to do, he says.

And if you listen to Boldt tell it, the folks staffing the faith-based recovery center did all the work making the program a success. He was just there to help out a bit.

But that isn't so, says facility director Vicky Smith.

"Without Marc in office, this doesn't happen," she said. "Marc championed everything here. I know God is still going to use him in other ways, but none of this would have happened without him."

And it's bigger than bricks and mortar. Vanessa Vaughn says the Grace Lodge was critical in helping her recover from her addictions. She's been clean a year now, and she cries when she talks about Boldt's involvement in that triumph.

"When you meet someone who is willing to talk to you, and they look you in the eye and show you they care, it's huge," Vaughn said. "Marc did that. He cared."

It's one of many stories told about Boldt that paint him as an individual with compassion.

Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart tells a tale of how a member of the public once complained to the commissioners about a group of homeless folks who were hanging out around a county street corner.

Stuart said Boldt chimed in, explaining he had gone and spoken to them and learned their story of why they were there.

"He just went and chatted with these people," Stuart said. "It's part of his heart. It's part of his call to service. It's what he does."

At a farewell event in his honor last week, people openly wept as they told stories of how he has made the county better.

Mary Blanchette, executive director of the Children's Justice Center, thanked Boldt for his seven years on the group's executive board. The Children's Justice Center deals with felony-level child abuse.

"It's work most people don't want to hear about," Blanchette said, "let alone spend the past seven years on."

Former Commissioner Betty Sue Morris also spoke, saying in her 20 years as a politician, she had met no one as honorable as Boldt.

"Not once did I serve with a finer elected official, or a finer man, than Marc Boldt," said Morris, a Democrat.

What comes next

Boldt is looking for a job now. He's not ready to retire. So what does he want to do?

"I would like to keep working in social services," Boldt said. "I would like to focus on mental health, or drug and alcohol abuse."

Take a look at Boldt's background beside his political career and the idea seems almost laughable. In fact, Boldt does laugh when he thinks about it.

He has a degree in agriculture, he ran a berry farm, and while he was in the Legislature, he drove a concrete truck.

"Did I ever think I'd be interested in mental health when this began? No, not at all. Not a clue."

This is how he's changed, he says. These days, he takes an interest in how he can help make a difference.

"When I was first elected I didn't know what I didn't know, and I didn't care that I didn't know it," Boldt said. "Now I care about what I don't know. And I really want to know it."

He still plans to volunteer in the community. He's been involved in the Clark County Fair for decades, and that won't stop. He says he will still help mow the fields out at the 78th Street Heritage Farm. And maybe, if something piques his interest, he'll run for office again.

"I think when I was first elected, that first time was because of the 'R' on my name," he said. "Hopefully, after that, it was because of my name. So I'm willing to lose on my name. I'd rather that happen than have it be because they say I don't know the issues important to Clark County."

Boldt thinks his intimacy with the issues in Clark County makes him still electable. He believes he can win votes because he still cares.

"I'm a Republican without the support of the local party," Boldt said. "I'm a Republican who is pretty sure in my stance, and if people in my party don't see it that way, that is OK."

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov;erik.hidle@columbian.com.