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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joan Luschei Rathbun says
Lloyd, you will probably be very surprised to hear from me, and it’s doubtful that you even remember me, but I certainly remember you. My name before marriage, when I took my new husband’s name, was Joan Luschei. My mother was Helen Luschei, and when your family was forced to leave Seattle at the beginning of World War II, you came to Lincoln, Nebraska. My mother heard that you needed a place to stay until you could get into your own apartment, and she offered our home. Your family lived with us for a few weeks, and then they moved to an apartment just a block east of us on Huntington Avenue. Mother was criticized by some for “taking in those Japs,” but she certainly didn’t care. Why am I writing to you now? I knew you had some position in the government; when I visited your mother on our Seattle trip to see our cousins in 1975, I think you were in the middle of your campaign. I recently was looking at an old photo album and came across two photos of you. One was on your third birthday with you sitting between your parents while looking at the cake; the other was you sitting on a toy train. I have wondered if you would like to have them, but I don’t have your address, so can’t send them at this point. If you would like to have them, send me your address. Your parents were so thankful of my mother taking in your family that when Mitzi was born, she was given the middle name, Helen, after my mother. They had moved to Chicago by that time, and I don’t know when they moved to Madison, Wisconsin, but interestingly, I stayed with your parents for a couple weeks before I could get into my apartment, for I had taken a teaching position upon my graduation from Wesleyan in 1954. I was eight years old when you were three, and I am now 86, which makes you somewhere near 81. I have a few medical problems, but I am still able to be quite active, which is good. I live in my own home, a twin home in which yard care, snow shoveling, etc. are taken care of. It is in Eden Prairie, a suburb of Minneapolis, and I have lived in the Minneapolis area since 1955 when I married a man who was living here. He died in 1976, I married another wonderful man in 1986, and he died in 1997, so I have been alone now more than 20 years, but was fortunate to have two wonderful husbands. I am impressed with what you have accomplished, according to several articles I saw on this site. Send me an email if you are interested in the photos.