Lloyd Hara, a lifelong public servant
By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Lloyd Hara was born in Seattle, and he is proud of this fact. He is also a proud sansei — a third generation Japanese American.
As a young man, Hara believed that his generation would build on the accomplishments of its predecessors. He believed he would obtain the American Dream. To him, this didn’t mean a life of wealth — he actually opted out of pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in order to enroll in graduate school for public administration — it actually meant dedicating his life to public service and contributing to his community.
Hara was recently elected King County Assessor, where he will be responsible for the valuation of personal and real property for taxation purposes. He left the Port of Seattle Commission, a post he’s held since 2005, to run for assessor. From 1980 to 1992, Hara was the Seattle City Treasurer.
Though he was born in Seattle, Hara spent his childhood in Lincoln, Neb., Evanston and Chicago, Ill., and Madison, Wis. It was World War II, and Japanese Americans were being relocated to internment camps. Hara’s father was able to move the family out of Seattle and avoid internment because he had colleagues in the Midwest.
“Lloyd had rough experiences as a kid in the Midwest,” Liz Anderson, Hara’s wife, said. “He got beat up every day, coming home from school.”
The racial discrimination continued when his family moved back to Seattle in 1955 after the war. Hara’s parents were unable to buy a house in northeast Seattle because they were Asian.
“Due to housing discrimination, we initially rented in the U-District,” Hara said. His parents eventually built their own house because no realtor would sell them one. “And then [we] moved after a year to a new house in the View Ridge/Wedgwood area that we bought directly from a builder and did not go through a realtor’s office because of discriminatory practices. They did not have it specially built but bought a spec house from a builder who was willing to sell to [them].”
Hara worked hard in the face of adversity. He attended Roosevelt High School at a time when there were only a handful of students of color. He played on the school’s football team. He would eventually earn his bachelor’s degree in economics and his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington.
Hara began his military career during the Vietnam War. He led a 228-person company as a 2nd Lt. in Korea, served as Post Subsistence Officer at Fort Lewis, and continued in the Army Reserves, retiring with the rank of Lt. Colonel.
Hara worked as part of the staff of the Washington State Legislature and the governor’s staff before serving as King County’s youngest auditor at age 29. His career in the public sector continues to this day.
“Lloyd has always been involved in public service and feels very strongly about it,” said Anderson.
Anderson is also his campaign manager.
Hara’s enthusiasm extends to promoting diversity and helping other Asian Americans achieve success.
“Over the years, I’ve had strong supporters from the API community,” said Hara in a previous interview with Northwest Asian Weekly.
Hara believes more Asians and Pacific Islanders should move up into key political positions. “It’s important that you’re in a position of leadership so that you can hire folks of ability and talent,” he said. “Throughout my personal career, I’ve made it a point to hire aspiring Asian Americans to key positions within the office, and I will continue to do the same.”
Hara helped to establish the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials, the Seattle International District Rotary — the first in the world to grant women official membership, the North Seattle Community College Foundation, and the National League of Cities’ Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials caucus. He is a former president of the Seattle chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.
Hara’s dedicated work is the reason why he is being honored as a 2009 Top Contributor to the Asian Community on Dec. 4. Organized by the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, the awards dinner will recognize the achievements of community members who have made a substantial impact on Asian and Pacific Islander communities. ♦
For more information about the 2009 Top Contributors to the Asian Community awards dinner or to buy tickets, visit top.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.