MARYSVILLE — “Here’s Lacey Harper. She’s going to help you.”
Coming from anybody, that’s a lot of pressure. But this was Gov. Jay Inslee speaking to a gymnasium full of people after a mudslide swept away 43 lives in March 2014 near Oso.
Harper, who was then a regional representative for the governor, spent a month helping survivors in the aftermath. The slide left scars in communities all along Highway 530, from Arlington to Darrington.
“I didn’t always have the answers,” Harper told The Herald. “The most I could do was listen to their heartache and support them through the most difficult time.”
Her public service over the years was recognized Thursday, when she was named The Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leader in a gala at the Marysville Opera House. The award celebrates people who are doing good work in Snohomish County.
Harper was picked from a pool of a dozen nominees who were featured this month in The Herald Business Journal. Among the candidates were a 23-year-old county councilman, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who owns 13 espresso stands and the executive director of the local chapter of Girls on the Run.
All 12 took the stage at the opera house Thursday night, in a swanky two-hour ceremony with hors d’oeuvres, punch and wineglasses. Harper was shocked to find out she’d won. She didn’t have a victory speech prepared.
“In this time, it’s important for both young girls and young boys to see women recognized as leaders and a strong voice for the community,” she said.
Much of Harper’s work has been behind the scenes in state and county government. She was a legislative assistant to then-state Rep. John McCoy, of the Everett, Marysville and Tulalip areas. She’s now the external affairs manager for the Snohomish County Executive’s Office, where she’s a liaison between county, state, federal and tribal governments.
In the governor’s office, she helped to craft Inslee’s policies for how to better support communities in crisis, with lessons learned from the tragedy on Highway 530. Months after the slide, she was sent back to the area help again in the aftermath of the shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
Harper also serves on the board of trustees for the county YMCA. She has worked with Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, Dawson Place and Cocoon House.
“I’m a young woman in politics,” she said. “A lot of the time, I’m the only woman at the table having discussions about policy and issues. And I have worked for individuals who have really supported women leaders and women’s voices.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.