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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Longtime elected official Lloyd Hara retires, leaving legacy of property-data innovation

Lloyd Hara, who has held more local elective offices over a longer period of time than perhaps anyone in the history of the state, departs at the end of this month from the King County Assessor's office he has occupied for the past six years, likely bringing an end to a career in elective office dating back to 1969.

Lloyd Hara 
But as he turns the keys to the office over to John Arthur Wilson, the one-time aide who defeated him in the November General Election and will be sworn in January 3, he leaves a first-in-the-nation data legacy that will benefit residents, government and non-profits well into the future.

That data file, named LocalScape, was launched last March by Hara's office. He refers to the innovation, which amounts to a property data portal, as a "dynamic m apping tool designed to unleash the power of community data and redefine civic engagement" by layering local property tax value, tax data and census information.

Hara's 76th birthday was December 8 so, appropriately, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council proclaimed that day Lloyd Hara Day in the county.

And in a last holiday greeting to members of his staff, Hara thanked them for their role in the "nine national awards for innovation, customer service and leadership" that the office won from the national organization of assessors and other groups.

One of his innovations that he had to press for approval from the county's executive and council, was selling advertising on his department's website, which he viewed as adding a logical source of revenue, suggesting that every agency should be open to that idea.

Throughout his career, Hara was an official who genuinely enjoyed meeting his constituents, and thus established a tough standard for his successor.

He has logged more than 200 speaking engagements per year to service organization, real estate gatherings and town hall meetings, in addition to regular meetings with all 39 cities in the county and traveling to Olympia to meet with lawmakers on not only his department's issues, but also issues impacting the county.

As port commissioner, Hara chuckled at the sense that he had so many meetings out and around the county that he sometimes encountered people who didn't even know they were in the Seattle Port District.

Hara, then finishing his first term as a commissioner for the Poet of Seattle, was elected in 2009 to fill the unexpired term of King County Assessor Scott Noble, who resigned. He was subsequently elected, in 2011, to a full four-year term.

He thus undertook a role that made him, in essence, the "tax man" in the county since notices of taxes came from his office, although his office merely served to take the budget approved by the County Council and turn it into the tax per property parcel.

But throughout his years as assessor, Hara seemed always in quest of ways to lower property taxes, sometime stirring discussions with other elected officials, some of whom he sought to put out of business for taxpayer benefit.

One of his controversial suggestions sprang from his sense that regionalization that would involve consolidating functions of various elective offices may be a way that taxpayers in smaller counties may be better served, less expensively.

And he wondered aloud in one of our interviews a couple of years ago "how many jurisdictions should there be that taxpayers are helping support? Could some services be merged into regional units? Can some be privatized?"
It's out of the echo of such discussion Hara started that new ways of doing things at the local-government level may emerge as lawmakers and policymakers cope with new funding realities.

Hara told me that a family challenge, when his son, Todd, learned in August that he had a cancerous tumor in his kidney, put his 2015 re-election campaign in perspective. He said Todd's surgery a week before the election and his doctor's assessment that he was cancer free far outweighed the outcome of a political campaign.
Todd turned 42 on his birthday last week, three days after Lloyd's birthday. 

In fact, it was the second time that a family challenge came during a tight campaign, ironically, he says, in that they were during the two elections he lost.

The first was during his only run for statewide office, 1988, when his race for state treasurer was dimmed in importance by the death of his father.

The start of his career in elective office came for Hara, a graduate of Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington, in 1969 when he was appointed to the office of King County auditor, the youngest person to hold that office.

He was elected Seattle Treasurer in 1980 and served in that role until 1992, winning accolades from the Government Financial Officers Association, the Association of Government Accounts and the Municipal Treasurers Association of the U.S. and Canada, an organization he served as president for a term.

In addition to his elective offices, Hara founded the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials, the Seattle International District Rotary, the North Seattle Community College Foundation and is past president of the Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle Chapter.

Hara is taking a few days vacation with his wife, Liz, and told me in an email that while he has not made any future commitments, he has "too much energy to simply retire," adding "life is good and there is life after politics."
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