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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Moeller leaves legacy of dedicated public service

The Columbian
Published: March 13, 2023, 6:03am

In 2014, while recommending Jim Moeller for a seventh term as state representative, The Columbian wrote editorially: “Agree with him or not, Jim Moeller rarely leaves any doubt about where he stands on the issues.” The Editorial Board also called him “straightforward and thoughtful,” as well as “strong, curious and engaged.”

Those are meant to be compliments, and they represent high praise for an elected official; yet the board often disagreed with Moeller’s policies, if not his personality. As The Columbian wrote in the same editorial: “Moeller’s solutions, to a fault, often involve tax increases.” And as other commentary in the paper claimed over the years, “Moeller never met a tax increase he didn’t like.”

Such is the legacy of Jim Moeller, who died last week at the age of 67 after being in declining health for several years.

Moeller was a Vancouver native whose career was marked by efforts to improve the lives of others. In the private sector, he worked for 27 years as an addiction counselor. In the public sector, he served on the Vancouver City Council from 1995 to 2002, and then represented the 49th District in the Legislature for 14 years.

As The Columbian’s story about his death last week explained: “Perhaps best known by some for his love of colorful bow ties, Moeller was one of the state’s first openly gay lawmakers and was a trailblazer for the gay community in Vancouver and the state.”

Along the way, he was an unabashed believer in the ability of government to solve problems and effectively address issues facing his community and his state. That typically earned him easy election victories in the progressive-leaning 49th Legislative District.

Yet Moeller managed to advocate for positions he believed in without the dogma or stridency that is the hallmark of many politicians. As state Sen. Ann Rivers, a longtime legislator who often politically butted heads with Moeller, wrote on Facebook: “While Jim and I have equal and opposite political DNA, he always treated me with respect and dignity. I, in return, treated him the same. … A lovely human being and a dear friend.”

And former Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt told The Columbian: “He was always a consummate gentleman. He was always open to discussion and listening, understanding perspectives that we had. I never once questioned his motivation, or integrity for that matter.”

As an elected official, Moeller managed to maintain that integrity while remaining curious and examining the nuances of legislation. He had his beliefs, but they were borne out of a full examination of the topic rather than a political creed.

As the Editorial Board wrote: “He is not prone to sloganeering or political posturing, instead adopting a nuanced approach that leads to a deep understanding of the issues.”

Moeller, in other words, was colorful without being bombastic — a rare combination that remained true to his personality and made for an effective public servant. As the Clark County Democrats wrote on social media: “Jim was a fine example of service to one’s community. His kind heart and dedication will be a lesson that those who seek elected office would be wise to follow.”

Moeller remained true to his beliefs and his philosophy while being open to discussion and often using humor to defuse a tense situation.

In that regard, he provided a worthy template for all elected officials — even those who disagree with him politically.