At age 39, Aberdeen native Karen Rowe, the newest member of the Aberdeen City Council, is also its youngest. Mayor Erik Larson, 25, is the only elected official in city government who’s younger.
“He’s proactive,” she said about Larson. “He’s willing to try new things to make things better.”
She supports Larson’s quest to hire a city administrator, for example. “I like the idea and I think it’ll help our government be more productive.” she said. “But some things need to be addressed. Maybe we can look at Hoquiam and other cities of similar size where they have a city administrator to see how they do it.”
Rowe describes herself as someone who believes in moving forward, not dwelling on the past. Her focus will be on creating new jobs by “growing our community and, hopefully, our economy.”
There are some matters that need attention, such as how to help the homeless population and work on the local drug problem. “More jobs might help with both of these issues,” she said.
Rowe and her husband, Ryan, own GH Wine Sellars, located on Broadway downtown. They wanted to open a wine business after spending two years in Ellensburg more than a decade ago while Ryan was attending Central Washington University. There are several such businesses there and Aberdeen didn’t have any at that point.
“Westport Winery (Garden Resort) paved the way,” she said. With its unique surroundings, restaurant and other attractions all situated close to the city, “it’s a destination itself.”
She noticed a location in the heart of downtown and thought at the time that it was perfect for GH Wine Sellars. The business has been there for four years now. Long-time business owners and other locals were highly supportive of their efforts to make the wine shop a success, she said. “So many businesses around us have opened up downtown. Ideally, I’d like to help Aberdeen continue the progress we’ve already started to make.”
She cited recent developments as examples of progress, such as Overstocks.com’s plans to open a local customer care center.
Rowe also wants to see the city’s reputation as a scary town finally put to rest. She urges people to come to downtown and see it for themselves. “I’ve walked downtown late — even well after midnight — and I’ve never had any problems,” she said.
The two years spent living in Ellensburg were the only time span Rowe spent living outside of the Harbor. A lot of tourists visit Rowe’s business and say how much they like being in the area.
“They see it, but not all of us living here do. It’s like we don’t feel like we deserve something new,” she said. “We should be proud to live here because we have so much. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to Olympia. I have no need to go out of town.”
Rowe has tried to foster community pride and make things better through service on the board of the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement, as chair of the Aberdeen Founders’ Day Parade and as an affiliate board member of the Grays Harbor Association of Realtors.
Organizing First Fridays has taught her how to successfully bring businesses, artists, musicians and vendors together to reach a goal. She expects it will be useful experience for a city council member.
That’s because virtually all problems — including the city’s — are solvable. She hopes more residents will want to make the town even better going forward.
“If you see a problem, try to come up with a solution. Or get together with others and find a way to improve things,” she said.