Moments after stepping into Mayor Wayne Fournier’s office at Tenino City Hall, one notices that he is proudly unrolling blueprints for Tenino City Park’s twenty-year plan. He ticks off park improvements like a parent checking items off a child’s Christmas list. There is no denying Fournier’s enthusiasm for the future of Tenino.
“I fought to be able to live here,” recalls Fournier. “My goal was always to live here.”
Fournier attended South Puget Sound Community College and then Washington State University. But alongside his academic career was always the fire service. It was his vehicle for receiving an education. He started volunteering in Tenino out of high school, graduated from the Washington State Fire Training Academy and then went to WSU where he was employed as a student fire fighter, which paid well enough by the university to cover college and living expenses.
Fournier worked as a wildland firefighter during summers in college and beyond. After graduation he went to the Lacey Fire Department as a trainee and later to the city of Aberdeen’s Fire Department where he works today. And after 20 years, he is still passionate about this career.
“Some of my goals,” says Fournier, “were to come back and teach in that academy, and I did that for ten years. That meant a lot to me to teach in the academy that made me who I am.”
But Fournier becoming a firefighter was not a random happenstance. It’s the family business.
“I was raised in public service. My grandfather was the Tenino police chief through the 70s, and my dad was one of the fire chiefs here in Tenino growing up,” explains Fournier. “He was a volunteer for 30 years. So, I grew up in the fire station. I never saw it as a career growing up; it was more for volunteers. Thirty years ago, there weren’t that many jobs in the fire service in Thurston County, but now there are. I didn’t make it part of my path until I was 18. And when I went through the county fire academy, it just made sense to me. It gave me purpose. Once I found that purpose, I grew a lot as a person, and it took me on a path that led me here.”
“Here” is the Tenino mayor’s office. There are many who live in a community and are natural leaders. They typically decide through circumstances to run for city council. They might even surprise themselves by taking on a political challenge, but in Fournier’s case it is something he long wanted to do. His interest in politics led him to become a representative as a college student where he developed a skillset that is useful today.
“I joined the student senate at South Puget Sound, and during my time there I learned so much that I apply here. There were a lot of things I knew how to do when I got here,” Fournier says.
But he also feels that his career in the fire service prepared him for public office.
“You don’t last long in the fire service if you aren’t someone who is trustworthy. You are going into people’s houses in the middle of the night. There is no playing around. If you aren’t trustworthy, you are weeded out very early. As a candidate for public office, people see that. They see you are a trustworthy person; otherwise you wouldn’t have that career,” Fournier explains.
Today, Fournier is pleased with the direction Tenino is heading and with the folks who are leading the way.
“This is a representative democracy,” explains Fournier, “so everyone has a different skill set. Hopefully, you have all these people who cobble something together that works. I feel that in Tenino right now, we have that. We have a city council with various backgrounds and different interests, and we all get along very well. Everybody respects each other. I have a skill set that complements theirs. This is a good time for Tenino right now, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
And a stroll through Tenino will show that things are a happening. Tenino’s leaders always have their eyes open for opportunities, and a great example is the Tenino City Park, which has been declared a joint city and county park. Currently the city and county are working together to expand outdoor recreation opportunities for South Thurston County residents.
“They need outdoor park facilities down here,” says Fournier. “The county was looking at building things, and we said, ‘No, we have facilities; just make those better.’”
Consequently, the roof on the Quarry House was replaced. The kiosk was constructed, the parking lot paved and a veterans’ memorial wall is going in as well as trail signs. Historic preservation funds are on the way to restore the Quarry House porch.
“We have a great relationship with the county,” says Fournier.
The city of Tenino has also purchased signs for the Tenino City Park, and it was Fournier’s goal that they be works of art. In fact, it is his vision that the city has art throughout.
“I have no skill or ability to create it,” says Fournier, “but I know when art should happen, and I can help facilitate it.”
In the last year Wayne Fournier was honored as King 5’s Best Mayor of Western Washington. He was profiled in AWC’s March/April issue of Citivision. Tenino was honored with the Municipal Excellence Award by the Association of Washington Cities. Wayne was instrumental in the Quarry Dive last summer and appeared on King 5 Evening.
And as the honors keep coming, one might ask what it is about Tenino that people love.
“There’s a lot of appreciation for a community like this. It’s authentic. In a world made of plastic, our city is made of stone. That’s a forever kind of real,” Fournier offers.
With a year like 2017, what is around the corner for 2018?
Fournier only smiles and says enigmatically, “This is going to be a big year.”