Manzanita mayor retires after decade of dedication

After ten years of committed public service to the City of Manzanita, Mayor Garry Bullard will pass the mayoral torch to Mike Scott with the New Year.

By Ann Powers

“Because I think five (two-year) terms is enough,” Bullard said. “It’s far better to leave too early then to stay on too long. I love this community. I would like to retire while a majority still thinks well of me.”

No worries there. Many sing Bullard’s praise and are sad to see the beloved elected official leave the city’s helm.

“Rarely does a mayor connect so completely with the place and people he is privileged to serve,” Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, said. “Garry was always a gentlemen. He surrounded himself with can do, want to, will do people and moved Manzanita forward in his decade as mayor.”

Born in Thorton Township, Ill., Bullard was the son of an “active union railroad man and a highly-qualified legal secretary, ahead of her time.” He attributes his parents’ occupations for guiding him in the direction of his own successful career as a labor law attorney for 50 years.

Bullard was the first in his family to graduate from college. He earned his undergraduate and law school degree, both on academic scholarship, from Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill. In his 20s, he headed west, eventually settled in Portland and started his own law firm. He has been married to his wife, Kay Stepp, for 35 years.

“To Garry the big payoff for being mayor was being able to ride in the convertible in the Fourth of July parade and throw candy to the children lining the streets who have always included an assortment of our 11 grandchildren,” said Stepp, who served as Portland General Electric Company president and chief operating officer. “He was never happier when donning his straw boater and heading out for the parade. To him the parade is a symbol of the Manzanita spirit.”

Bullard is quick to recognize his wife’s achievements, noting she was the first female officer of a public utility in the U.S. He quips about being the “queen’s husband, not the king.”

The couple has owned a home in Manzanita since 1993. After his first successful bid ten years ago – the election victories, and subsequent terms, kept adding up.

“As long as I’m enjoying it and as long as the council holds together and as long as Jerry (Taylor) is there, we’re good,” Bullard said of his time in office.

But now, Taylor is semi-retiring after 20 years.

City of Manzanita Council President Leila Salmon, City Manager Jerry Taylor and Mayor Garry Bullard before the 2016 Fourth of July Parade. Photo provided

“Even though we kid him about his lack of skill with computer technology, his frequent practice of sending handwritten notes to people instead of emails has given a more personal touch to his doing the city’s business,” Taylor said of Bullard. “He has always been willing to listen to anyone, but not afraid to take a stand when he thought it was in the community’s interest.”

Fellow council members said Bullard’s contributions to the community and respected legacy will long be remembered.

“From infrastructure improvements to coalition-building with others in Tillamook County and the state, Garry has shown quiet, yet forceful leadership,” said Manzanita Council President Leila Salmon. “Garry Bullard is a gentleman of the old school. His skill at political and administrative diplomacy has given me constant learning opportunities in the decade that we served together on the Manzanita City Council.”

Mayor Garry Bullard, with his best friend Beau, on Manzanita Beach. Photo provided

Bullard is set to partner with Mayor-elect Scott at the Pine Grove Community House meeting and potluck dinner Jan. 17. The public meeting has traditionally been a presentation of the State of the City. Pine Grove officials expect a large attendance at the January event because “a grateful community will want to hear from both the incoming and outgoing mayors.”

Bullard and Stepp said they’ve agreed to not make any new commitments for one year so they can travel and spend time with family and friends. Like her husband, Stepp is taking a break from community service when she completes her term as the North Tillamook Library board president in January.

“Garry has always been a role model for me and once again it was a good decision to follow his lead,” she said.