Substitute teachers are familiar with disrespect from students, commonly experiencing teasing, troublemakers and hearing, “Our teacher does it this way.”
After Packwood resident and former seatholder Francis Lee Grose was appointed to serve out the remainder of Lewis County District 3 Commissioner Gary Stamper’s term after Stamper’s death from COVID-19 in late 2021, he braced for the substitute teacher treatment.
Fortunately for Grose, he was a seasoned teacher — literally, he worked in education for much of his career — and a county office veteran.
“(Stamper) was a good guy and a good leader and a good commissioner,” he said. “I didn’t relish the fact that I was taking his place.”
Grose was chosen by the other two commissioners out of three appointees from the local Republican Party. With the Nov. 29 election certification, commissioner-elect Scott Brummer, R-Winlock, will take over the role.
Now that he’s got one foot out the courthouse door, Grose spoke freely in an exit interview of sorts with The Chronicle on the joys and tribulations of his year as a substitute commissioner.
The three highlight pieces of his wisdom he hopes to pass on? Ask endless questions, don’t forget elected officials are meant to be public servants and trust that through prayer, planning and patience, things will come together.
When first elected in 2007, he was 56 years old. He served through 2014 and maintained a close relationship with Stamper, his successor. Earlier this month, Grose turned 72.
“Gary had no problem, ever, calling me and asking about something, whatever it might be,” he said, later adding with a laugh, “I don’t think he ever really fully took my advice, but he always would ask.”
Stamper was known for level-headedness and listening skills, especially beside his two rookie seatmates. Grose did his best to emulate that style, many times finding himself between two quarreling first-term commissioners, Lindsey Pollock and Sean Swope.
With a three-member commission, he said, disagreement is positive — as long as it stems from the idea of public service, rather than being “at each other’s throats.”
Leaders are Learners
When Grose was first encouraged to fill Stamper’s role in early November 2021, his acceptance came during personal strife.
His son was battling cancer in Idaho at the time and passed away in January.
“It took me a couple months, even the month following his passing to really feel like I was getting back in the groove,” Grose said. “That’s three months out of the year that I’ve been here that was kind of wasted.”
He also noted even with prior experience, the role had a steep learning curve. To avoid the same lull period for Brummer or his opponent, Harry Bhagwandin, R-Onalaska, Grose offered that either could shadow him for the weeks ahead of certification.
Grose recalled his 2007 election beside first-term commissioner Ron Averill and an editorial in The Chronicle he said was called “New Commissioners Are the Three Blind Mice.”
“I took offense at that a little bit, although it was kind of true. We really didn’t know,” Grose said.
Controversy in the years to come over violation of the Open Public Meetings Act largely brought to light by the newspaper became a catalyst for the “blue ribbon advisory panel” the county used to research other methods of local government. Eventually the panel came back with the suggestion of a county manager.
Learning to ask questions of constituents, county staff and other leaders made the difference, he said.
“Good people are what make good government, it’s not good government making good people. The office — this office, whatever office, whether you’re the president of the United States on down — you either change with the office or the office will change you. Which do you want it to be?” Grose asked.
He added the best leaders do both — learn from the role and shape it, simultaneously.
For his policy wins during the last twelve months, Grose mentioned the suspension of fees for Lewis County’s “No Spray” program. Before he made a stink about it, residents who didn’t want the county to use pesticides on their property near county roads were subject to an annual payment of $300. Through it meant battling Public Works Director Josh Metcalf, who called the fee purely cost-covering at the time — Grose felt he was able to speak on behalf of many constituents for the waiving of the fees.
Since taking Stamper’s seat, Grose has been encouraged by many to remain in politics. But retirement to his recently-remodeled Packwood home with wife Jan Grose sounds sweet enough to satiate him, he said.
“I was out on my deck one evening and I have a nice cold drink in my hand and I get a phone call. ‘We really need you to speak at the Republican Party picnic,’” he said. “The mountain’s across the valley, I’ve got the moon coming up over the mountains. There’s a nice, little soft breeze going across the valley. Why would I want to leave and get embroiled in the politics in Chehalis?”
After the death of one of his two sons, Grose said, he and Jan are focused on spending time with family. They dream of a boat trip down the Rhine or the Danube rivers in Europe or beaches in Hawaii with grandchildren. But most of all, he dreams of home and an end to his three hours commuting to and from Packwood.
“If I never went to the Rhine, if I never went to Europe, if I never went to England, I could die happy right there,” he said.