Tacoma City Councilman and state representative-elect Jake Fey attended his final council meeting as an elected city official Tuesday – a lengthy affair that stretched nearly three hours and, at the bitter end, included a grand send-off from his colleagues.
Among the “gifts” presented to the two-term member was a life-sized cardboard cut-out of comedian Tina Fey, a pair of flip-flops, a faux “Lone Ranger Award” replete with black mask, a City Hall-referential poem riffing on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and a string of mispronunciations of his name throughout the marathon meeting.
Each of the gag gifts had inside meaning, which council members explained and this post will decipher below.
But kidding aside, council members also offered Fey their sincere thanks and gratitude, and Mayor Marilyn Strickland read an extensive proclamation detailing Fey’s service to his city over the past seven years.
Some highlights of Fey’s tenure included first winning election to office in 2005 and re-election in 2009; helping establish the city’s ethics board, Office of Sustainability and Complete Streets strategy; and serving on various boards, including the Sound Transit Board of Directors, the Tacoma/Pierce County Board of Health and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency directors’ board.
Strickland also noted Fey’s lone council vote against former City Manager Eric Anderson’s 2011/12 budget plan – a proposal that proved disastrous and spiraled the city into financial crisis; and, after voting to oust Anderson, his support to bring in the city’s new manager, T.C. Broadnax.
Fey, who in November beat fellow Council member Lauren Walker in the race for the state House representing the 27th Legislative District, officially vacates his District 2 council seat on Dec. 31. He leaves with still one year left on his second term, setting up a council appointment next month.
Strickland concluded the proclamation urging citizens “to pause in recognition to his many contributions to the betterment of life in our community.”
Council members then offered gifts and spoke jokingly — and glowingly — of Fey.
Councilman David Boe penned the poem, an at-times self-referential spoof that touched on some of Fey’s accomplishments.
“In honor of his honor, and him being such a stand-up kind of guy,” one stanza read, “I got all dressed-up tonight (even to the extent of wearing a tie).”
Before presenting his gift to Fey, Councilman Ryan Mello explained that over the years, the pronunciation of his outgoing colleague’s name often was brutalized, including by Norm Dicks, who at one event kept referring to Fey as “Jack Fay.”
“Your name is often misused,” Mello said.
He then presented Fey with the cardboard cut-out, which captured Tina Fey in her famed SNL aping of one-time Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. (Though it’s spelled the same as the comedian’s name, the outgoing councilman pronounces his name “Fi” — as in the U.S. Marines motto “Semper Fi” — not “Fay,” as the Palin imitator pronounces her’s).
Councilman Marty Campbell, who presented Fey with a pair of flip-flops, noted that Fey’s knowledge of parliamentary procedure helped the council pass a resolution opposing the State of Arizona’s much criticized immigration law.
“You’re the only one I met who knows when to flip-flop at the right time,” Campbell quipped. “If you remember, the vote on Arizona, Jake voted for it. And then realizing we didn’t have enough votes, he voted against it so he could the next week bring it back and vote for it again.”
Not to be outdone, Councilwoman Victoria Woodards presented Fey with “The Lone Ranger Award” and a mask “so that he can play Lone Ranger in Olympia.”
“On a serious note,” Woodards added, “while Jake may have been a lone ranger on the budget vote in 2011-12, Jake is not a lone ranger. Jake really is the kind of council member who works tirelessly with his fellow council members and I suspect he’ll do the very same thing in Olympia.”
Fey, who appeared to choke up while making his final remarks, called his departure “bittersweet.”
“Every day at the city council is different,” Fey said. “… I almost resigned about a month into it, because Council member (Julie) Anderson was sponsoring a spay and neuter ordinance that was very controversial. And still to this day, I’ve never had as many emails — as many irate emails — from people, and some very, very long meetings.”
“You never know what you’re going to get,” he added. “I didn’t know I would have to be dealing with the conversion of a golf course in my district to residential housing. I didn’t frankly … anticipate that when I got on this council, that I would be put into a spot — thank you Mayor Strickland for being gone – on the boycott Arizona issue.”
And, Fey concluded: “I didn’t expect that I would be needing to vote against a budget and voting to select a new city manager. But I did, and that’s part of the opportunity here. And what makes a difference is you have to deal with things — sometimes on the fly — and do the best you can.”