Washington leaders gather to honor retiring Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet

This video includes the presentations of all of the speakers at the Retirement Celebration for Mayor Pete Kmet, Dec. 15, 2021
Courtesy of City of Tumwater

Today was Pete Kmet's last day as mayor of Tumwater. 

Two weeks ago, some 120 leaders from throughout Washington converged at South Puget Sound Community College to honor and bid a formal farewell to Kmet, longtime Tumwater mayor and city councilmember.           

Kmet had served the city of Tumwater for 30 years. First, as councilmember starting from 1992 to 2009, then as mayor for 12 years starting from 2009 to 2021.  

The one-hour event on Wed., Dec. 15, was recorded and is available here, from the City of Tumwater’s YouTube page or by clicking the video above this story.

Always advocating: Those who attended the event were invited to contribute to one of Mayor Kmet’s favorite causes, the Old Brewhouse Tower Capital Campaign of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. Local leaders envision creating a community space within the Old Brewhouse, which is now owned by the city.  For more information about the building and plans to renovate it, see this page.

John Dodge, the long-time columnist and reporter for The Olympian, now retired, was the master of ceremonies for the event. Dodge said of Kmet that he had “an unwavering dedication to the community of Tumwater.”

During the celebration, Kmet’s colleagues also shared their experiences working with him both as a mayor and council member. LOTT Clean Water Alliance Executive Director Mike Strub described him as an “environmental champion”. Thurston County Regional Planning Council (TRPC) Executive Director Marc Daily also spoke during the event. He shared that Kmet, who has been a member of the TRPC Board since 1996, had big ideas about the region, and had even encouraged the establishment of trail systems over I-5 and Martin Way. “He is always on duty,” Daily said.

Commissioner Tye Menser

Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser shared, “30 years of any kind of continuous public service but especially as an elected official is extremely rare today.” Menser added, “Turnover is the order of the day, longevity is rare.”

City Manager John Doan

“Thank you for always advancing Tumwater,” Tumwater City Manager John Doan said. Doan also outlined the accomplishments that Kmet had done over his 30-year career. Under his leadership, Tumwater was able to open the Fire Station T2, added 13 firefighters, and arranged to pay for fire engines on a 25-year cycle. In addition, the city also added nine more police officers.  “He always championed what it takes to help our employees be successful,” Doan said. 

Aside from adding more city employees, Kmet also helped establish a Transport Benefit District which provided for the funding of street maintenance and the preservation of the street system. “Over the years, he has led with an understanding that while the infrastructure was important, fundamentally, the people are the ones who do the work,” Doan said.

Councilmember Eileen Swarthout

Councilmember Eileen Swarthout spoke on behalf of the city council. She described Kmet as someone who is “really smart” and called him “Mr. Encyclopedia.”  She continued, “over the years we’ve accomplished so many good things for our city…and we will continue because of the trail that you have blazed for us.”

Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby

Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby also gave an emotional speech. Selby described how the region came together to stop the spread of a major fire in downtown Olympia that morning. “I went downtown and I saw a ton of firetrucks. I saw Lacey fire trucks, I saw Nisqually fire trucks, I saw everybody coming together to help protect all of our small businesses…and I can’t think of a better partner than Tumwater.”

Lacey City Manager Scott Spence

Lacey City Manager Scott Spence spoke on behalf of Mayor Andy Rider and presented Kmet with a plaque that reads, "Thank you for 30 years of dedicated service in partnering with the City of Lacey."

Lt. Governor Denny Heck

Lt. Gov. Denny Heck thanked Kmet for his leadership in the Tumwater. “Every person feels [that] sense of deep-down gratitude for you’ve done.” Through his accomplishments, Heck said he believed that the mayor must have “won just about every community award imaginable, and deservedly so.” He shared that Kmet’s involvement was not limited to council meetings, but that the mayor was not afraid to “get his hands in the dirt, literally, to lift this place up.”

In celebration of Kmet’s outstanding leadership, the Lt. Governor suggested having a Pete Kmet Servant Leadership Award. “It’s not just about your longevity, it’s about the quality of what you have gotten done… You Sir, are an institution, you’re an icon,” Heck shared.

The mayor’s comments

In his retirement speech, Kmet recognized his wife, Nancy, for her support throughout his career. The mayor claimed that he did not see himself as a politician, “never in my wildest dreams that I’d expect to run for public office.” He continued, “Being an elected official is like being in a university classroom every day. You get to learn from some very smart staff…and you hope to make the right decisions.”

Finally, Kmet shared that he is “proud of what we’ve accomplished in Tumwater. He concluded his speech by saying that, “We’re all destined to change people’s lives in ways we can’t imagine.”


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