Greg Jayne: 'Straight shooter' Pollard stands at special intersection

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 
photoGreg Jayne, Opinion page editor

There ought to be a name for it.

There ought to be a descriptive term for that time in life when your age and your experience and your accomplishments deliver you to the intersection where Curmudgeon Street collides with Elder Statesman Avenue. For that time when you can speak your mind and still have people listen. For that carefree status currently inhabited by Royce Pollard.

Pollard, 74, has been out of office a little more than four years now, after 14 years as Vancouver's mayor, yet he remains a powerful force in the community. Take last month, when he decided to speak at a public meeting of the Clark County Board of Commissioners.

"I have a few comments," he told the commissioners. "First, I believe in prayer, but I don't think it has a place in these kinds of meetings. A comment on advisory votes — an aside: Advisory votes are like kissing your sister; no one gets much out of that. It's a waste of money."

Pollard wasn't finished, of course. He mocked commissioners for creating an atmosphere that has led many longtime employees to leave their jobs. He ripped them for banning newspapers in the county offices. He weighed in on the hiring of Don Benton as director of the county's environmental services department.

"I have to tell you, my Chinese shar pei dog, Ralph, probably knows as much about environmental issues as Benton, and he died 10 years ago," Pollard said.

"You've done nothing about these and other serious violations of etiquette. I mean, you allow people to swear — damn. I just want you to know you're doing a super job, and keep up the good work."

Basically, in the span of a couple minutes, Pollard informed county commissioners of all their shortcomings in a gruff-but-lovable fashion. Basically, he said what a lot of citizens have been thinking. And when he was finished, he had a question for Commissioner Tom Mielke, who had tried to interject moments before.

"Oh, I'm sorry, you wanted to say something Mr. Mielke?"

Mielke: "No."

Pollard: "Good."

The lesson? It's good to be Royce Pollard. It's good to reach that place where your knowledge and your forthrightness and the respect you command allow you to ruffle feathers.

"My grandfather always said, 'Think before you open your mouth,'" he said in an interview. "I haven't always had that gift."

Attention on oil trains

Which might be bad news for those who support an oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Pollard has taken to speaking out against the proposal that would greatly increase the number of oil-bearing trains traveling through town.

"I just think it's a disaster for the city of Vancouver," he said. "There's no question in my mind the mayor and the city council need to protect the citizens of Vancouver.

"My big investment is not Esther Short Park, it's not the Hilton hotel, it's not the waterfront development. My investment is my three grandchildren who live on Evergreen Highway, closer to the train tracks than the waterfront development is. Aren't we called the Evergreen State? What the hell is going on?"

All of this is nothing new for Pollard. His time as mayor, and on the city council prior to that, was marked by an outspoken demeanor. It also was marked by the rejuvenation of Esther Short Park, the renovation of the downtown core, and the rebranding of the city as America's Vancouver. So, yeah, the man knows how to get things done.

And now that he no longer has an official capacity, he can refer to the legislators who blocked the Columbia River Crossing as "dorks" and not worry about any backlash.

"Over the years, I've been told by little old ladies, 'You can make your point without swearing,'" he said. "So I apologize to them."

Outspoken. Brash. Entertaining. Pollard says there already is a phrase to describe people like him: "Straight shooter."