Ode to a public servant | Letters
October 17, 2011 · 8:49 PM
Your article on the retirement of King Fitch, (“Fitch retiring after 25 years”, Sept. 28), though replete with many accolades, failed in my view to cite his most remarkable achievement.
For 25 years, King Fitch has managed the town on a sound fiscal basis.
He has controlled spending appetites in prosperous times, set aside funds for future commitments, and adhered to the unpopular belief that “good ideas cost money”.
The result is that the town has weathered the Great Recession on an even keel. It has done so without employee terminations, histrionic budgetary crises, or divisive appeals to raise taxes and other levies.
This stands in sharp contrast to San Juan County, Washington state and our federal government, which in varying degrees have spent like drunken sailors in good times and then rued the dawn of the next day.
I am left to wonder how he, a servant of the council, managed its spending ambitions.
Was it his stature earned from many years of service or his ability to sway people with a calm mastery of the facts?
He graciously gives credit to others, particularly to his long partnership with town Treasurer Wendy Picinich and to the dedication of the town’s 35 employees. He also praises the citizen volunteers who have served as mayors and council members and who, unlike career politicians, do not have the same corrosive incentives to spend.
It has not been smooth sailing for King.
One mayor with outsized spending ambitions almost fired him many times. And he has lost his share of battles. Yet he has remained a good steward of town funds.
Who now will be Horatio at the bridge to defend the public treasury?
When some town council members propose to vote themselves health care benefits, who will stand up and say in public, as King Fitch did, that the town has higher priorities?
There is an oft quoted saying — attributed to many, including Alex de Tocqueville — that democracy will last only until the public realizes they can vote themselves benefits.
This prophecy may be fulfilled elsewhere in our nation; but during his years of service, King Fitch gave lie to it in the Town of Friday Harbor.
San Juan Island