Lacey Harper (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Lacey Harper (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

When tragedy strikes, Lacey Harper is government’s human face

She’s worked for the governor and now the county executive, helping constituents through tough times.

This is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award, which seeks to highlight and celebrate people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner will be named at an event on April 12.

Name: Lacey Harper

Age: 35

Profession: External affairs manager for the Snohomish County executive

The woman must have been desperate. She couldn’t afford a car seat for her child and she and her friend were calling everywhere to get one.

That’s when they reached Lacey Harper, then a legislative assistant for state Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip.

“When you call your legislator, that’s kind of like the last of the line,” Harper said. “The first person you’d think to call is not your legislator.”

Harper made some calls of her own. She found a friendly fire district that had some funds available. And the problem was solved.

Harper has spent her career in government, mostly behind the scenes but always on the front lines when it comes to constituents. It’s for that work that she’s being nominated as an Emerging Leaders candidate for 2018.

“Lacey is a passionate leader focused on improving her community,” her nominator wrote.

She’s worked for McCoy in north Snohomish County, served as the Northwest regional representative for Gov. Jay Inslee and now is employed as the external affairs manager for Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.

She was working for Inslee when the Oso mudslide occurred March 22, 2014. She traveled with the governor and his wife, Trudi Inslee, to meet with the families the day after the slide.

“The governor said, ‘We we want to do anything we can to help you through this,’” Harper said. “At that point, there were a lot of unknowns. And he said, ‘Here’s Lacey Harper. She’s gonna help you.’ Here we are in a gymnasium full of people who were full of hope and fear about what had happened to their family members.”

She spent 30 days stationed in Arlington, trying to help the families as best as she could. Sometimes all she could do was offer a simple hug or just a friendly ear.

“I didn’t always have the answers,” Harper said. “The most I could do was listen to their heartache and support them through the most difficult time.”

Back in Olympia, she helped establish the governor’s State Route 530 Commission and authored the Governor’s Office Outreach Staff Disaster and Wildfire Response Protocol to provide a framework to provide support and response to communities in crisis.

She would later return to Snohomish County in October 2014 to represent the governor’s office in the aftermath of the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting.

She joined the county executive’s office two years ago and serves as a liaison between Somers and local, state, federal and tribal governments. She also serves on the board of trustees for YMCA of Snohomish County. She supports several other organizations, such as Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, Dawson Place and Cocoon House.

It’s a great experience and humbling to be nominated for the Emerging Leader award, Harper said. She notes that it’s important for women to be recognized for their work and leadership in the community.

“In my career, I have been marginalized and belittled,” Harper said. “I’ve been told all that I was a driver for an individual. That has had an impact on me. How can I continue to grow as a person and work hard for this community and not just go sit down and not listen to that individual?”

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