The Covington Council Chambers had an air of nostalgia and emotion as two of the council’s long-serving members said goodbye during the last meeting of the year.
Councilmembers Margaret Harto and Marlla Mhoon will be leaving the council and will not return in 2020. The city chose to hold a small reception and recognition service during the regular city council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Harto leaves a familial legacy
“I’ve known you for 30-plus years,” Covington Mayor Jeff Wagner told Harto at the reception.
“Since you were a kid,” Harto teased.
“I don’t know if I was a kid but I had just moved to Covington,” Wagner replied. “We latched onto each other and we both ran (for office).”
Harto has been a Covington resident before the city was incorporated, 50 years. Harto served on the city council for 18 years and spent a decade of that time as the mayor. She was also a leader for the local Parent Teacher Association and serves on many other boards and clubs such as the Regional Fire Authority and is a founding member of the local Kiwanis club.
Harto also came up with the idea of the annual Hollydaze celebration, which hosts multiple events during an all-day festival including the community tree lighting ceremony.
Harto withdrew from the election after deciding to retire. Her seat will be filled by councilmember-elect Jared Koukal.
“Margaret believes in community, she is community,” Wagner said. “She’s also very patient, kind and welcoming to all and she has been a great mentor to me. Margaret will be a huge loss to our council and she leaves some big shoes to fill.”
The mayor and council presented Harto with a key to the city, which lists her extensive work in and out of the city.
With misty eyes, Harto scanned the room for her great-grandson Zion who came up front to join her.
“I wouldn’t be here without him,” Harto said. “When you stop to think about it? Eighteen years … that’s raising a child, that’s the life of a child, a young adult. And I’m very pleased to have been a part of the parenting process for this city and all I’ve done has been a great pleasure for serving you. And I want to thank you for letting me do that.”
Retired Covington Finance Director Rob Henderson spoke at the reception and recited a poem he wrote for Harto.
“Someone who’s taken us to great heights, but not without your share of fights around the city with grace and courage, you helped this place grow and flourished,” Henderson narrated. “You sometimes channel your old school days, and you school people with your stern gaze … when push came to shove, you’ve always been a cut above.”
Henderson also presented the framed poem with a gift and a long, warm hug.
Maple Valley Mayor Sean Kelly also spoke to the crowd on behalf of the Maple Valley City Council to thank Harto.
Harto celebrated her retirement with her friends and family over cake, before finding her seat behind the council chamber desk to complete her last meeting.
Mhoon looks back at years of service
Mhoon’s last council meeting was also on Tuesday after losing the November election to challenger Kristina Soltys. Mhoon was honored by her fellow councilmembers, friends and family.
Mhoon was appointed to her seat on the council in 2005 and was reelected for the first time in 2006. Before that she served on the city’s planning commission. She was recognized as a regional leader for conservation and salmon protections, and as a leader on many commissions which dealt with flood control, homelessness and housing.
“Marlla is also involved in many community activities and she’s always willing to step in and help where needed,” Wagner said. “She is patient, kind and welcoming to all.”
Mhoon was also awarded a key to the city for her 14 years of service.
“I reflected on what brought me to the City of Covington, and it was a long time ago, we were only incorporated for a year or two,” Mhoon said. “There was a chance for, on 256th and 180th, a place for spot zoning. And I came to testify to the current council against spot zoning. The next time I got involved was when Walmart came to town and I heard that Covington did not have a sign code that would have prevented Walmart from putting up a big pull sign like a car dealership. I did not want to be known as the city of Walmart, so I got on the planning commission and the first thing we did was pass a sign code.”
“It’s been an honor to represent the citizens of Covington for all these years. Thank you, thank you.”