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June Atack was the first woman elected mayor of Poulsbo | Passages
June Atack, the first woman elected mayor of Poulsbo, has died.
Her son, Patrick, said she died of Alzheimer’s in a care facility in Burien on Nov. 22. She didn’t want a funeral and the family made no public announcement. She was 83.
The former mayor had lived at Martha & Mary for three or four years, her son said. Family members transferred her to Burien about six months ago.
Her quiet passing sharply contrasts her vibrant public life – the supermarket checker with the big smile and friendly banter who became the first woman elected to the City Council and, in 1982, the city’s top office.
Even after a public vote of no confidence in 1985 forced her resignation and that of five of seven council members, she remained involved in local affairs and her smile didn’t fade.
“Since serving as our mayor, June Atack has given countless hours of volunteer time to a number of community organizations,” Albert Ellenwood Jr. wrote in a 1991 letter to the editor, calling for her return to the City Council. “This includes work as a counselor for battered women at the ALIVE shelter, board member of Kitsap ParaTransit and advocate for housing at the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority to find housing for those without a home … June Atack truly cares about our community. June Atack is needed on our city council.”
Two years after she left office, Atack smiled for the camera for a centennial-book feature on Poulsbo mayors, posing with Martin Anderson (1952-60), Curt Rudolph (1985), Frank Raab (1960-68), Mitch Mitchusson (1985-99), and Clyde Caldart (1976-82). Her face beams from a page in the book “The Spirit of Poulsbo,” in which a chapter is devoted to her.
“She loved Poulsbo,” her son said.
Atack was born March 2, 1926 in Port Gamble, according to her son. Her father worked at the sawmill and in forestry, and her mom was a nurse. She graduated from North Kitsap High School.
She was involved in her children’s activities – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, PeeWee baseball – and enjoyed the outdoors. At her side, her children learned to fish and ski. “She was the one you could go talk to,” Patrick Atack said. “And when something was wrong, she was the mediator of the family.”
She attended Olympic College and the University of Washington. Her son, who works for the Kitsap County Road Department, said, “I don’t know if she majored in any one field, but she took a lot of classes,” among them political science. Her interest in local politics grew.
“In the mid-’70s, she didn’t like a lot of things that were going on in Poulsbo and thought she could do a better job,” her son said. “She had good organization skills.”
According to “The Spirit of Poulsbo,” Atack put those organization skills to work immediately as mayor.
“One of her first efforts was to codify the city ordinances so that they were more easily accessed, a task that had never been done. The laborious task of weeding out the obsolete laws began.” Among the outdated laws: A 1908 ordinance requiring jail inmates to do street work; a 1908 law making it illegal to travel through town to sell or give away medicine for the cure of ailments; a 1914 law making it illegal to pull, push or move any wagon along city streets, causing damage to roads; a 1929 law allowing any opera house company to take out a license; and a 1953 ordinance requiring a fee of $25 a day for circuses.
“The efforts at cleaning up the ordinances of the town was an admirable one,” the book reported.
She was also mayor when Kvelstad Pavilion was built.
But her management style won her few friends. She reportedly required that all decisions cross her desk first and was quoted as saying “I want every problem treated as if it were a $10,000 bill.”
“In her enthusiasm to clean out the closets of city government and get things moving, she overworked herself and she stepped on some toes along the way,” according to the book, “The Spirit of Poulsbo.” “It wasn’t long before fingers were being pointed on all sides and names were being called.”
Specifically, according to her son, “She called out some employees who used equipment for personal use.”
Atack explained her actions as mayor in a March 1985 advertisement in the Kitsap County Herald (see the full document below).
By May 1984, a lawsuit was filed against the mayor and a recall petition was circulating. To still the waters, she agreed to resign if the public voted “no confidence.” After the votes were counted from the March 12, 1985 special election, she and five council members were gone. The story generated coverage across the west, including the Mercury News in San Jose, Calif.
Poulsbo appeared to be soon forgiving. The author of “Poulsbo / Its First Hundred Years” wrote that Atack, her immediate predecessors and her successors “all found themselves in the vortex of the embroilment that stirred the community and provided grist for the media during the 1985 calendar year. Ask anyone now what it was all about and they are at a loss for an answer.
“The lesson learned was that when democratic processes prevail, government can take occasional buffeting and bruising and still slip back into normal routine again without harm to either society or the individual. Just remember Ivar Haglund’s advice, ‘Keep clam.’”
“The Spirit of Poulsbo” closes its chapter on Atack with, “It was a sober moment for Poulsbo’s city government, one no one wants to repeat. Twenty years is too soon to write a history of this period – emotions are still too close to the surface. Perhaps the historians of the next generation will be able to sort out the heat from the light and understand what really happened between 1982 and 1985 in Poulsbo’s city government.”
Atack’s survivors include her children, Francis Richardson, Big Valley; Michelle Richardson, Bremerton; Bob Atack, Poulsbo; and Patrick Atack, East Bremerton. A daughter, Sheryl Diane Kleemann of Silverdale, died of cancer on Sept. 11, 2009.
The former mayor is also survived by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Patrick Atack said memorial contributions may be made to Martha & Mary, 19160 Front St NE, Poulsbo, WA 98370.
Mayor June Atack defended her actions as mayor in a March 1985 advertisement in the Kitsap County Herald: