Opening the Doors of Government:

The Confirmation of Darel Grothaus


In early 1978, Darel Grothaus was nominated as Director of the Department of Community Development by Mayor Royer.  The Urban Development and Housing Committee held a public hearing on February 15, 1978, chaired by Michael Hildt, to hear community input.  Hildt asked people to comment on the criteria that should be considered, questions that should be asked of Grothaus, and their recommendations.   The final interview with Grothaus was held on February 21, 1978, and the Council recommended Grothaus be appointed, which he was.  He resigned two years later, in May 1980. 

Darel Grothaus, April 12, 1978.  Original number 32089, Seattle Engineering Department Negatives, 2613-07, Seattle Municipal Archives
Darel Grothaus, April 12, 1978. Original number 32089,
Seattle Engineering Department Negatives, 2613-07,
Seattle Municipal Archives.

Bob Royer introduced Grothaus to the Council, providing information on his work history and stating that "for the past decade Grothaus has been involved in shaping the neighborhood movement which has become such a potent and positive force in urban America."  Many individuals testified on behalf of Grothaus at the February 15 public hearing, including Thaddeus H. Spratlin, Glover Barnes, and Virgie Harris.  Although a few expressed concern that Grothaus would polarize Seattle's community, the vast majority spoke out in strong support of Grothaus.   Spratlin, professor of marketing at the University of Washington, stated in part, "The social awareness and sensitivity to which I refer includes his recognition of different ethnic and minority groups and different neighborhoods as well as downtown business interests.... He has shown a capability...to work in chambers with the well-placed professionals as well as at the grass roots with those whose voices need to be heard, even though they may not be articulate and well-schooled in the languages of finance, investment and community development."  The testimony of a young Nick Licata, currently Councilmember for the City of Seattle, can be heard here

Nick Licata:  My name's Nick Licata and I've met and had dealings with Darel Grothaus in the past through my involvement in the Seattle Coalition on Redlining and also as a board member of the Stevens Neighborhood Rehab Program.  And I feel there are essentially two points.  I'll be very brief as I know it's late.  They may have been made earlier but they're good points and they should be repeated. 

One is that when community groups often deal with City officials, very often there is a feeling of intimidation, whether or not it exists rightly or not I wouldn't want to make a judgment about.  But people are intimidated by people who hold high positions, and they often feel that they don't have the right to communicate problems with them and they feel often like they're getting in the way.  Consequently, there's a barrier that often results where community groups feel very frustrated and they feel that they often even go out of their way to be obnoxious, sometimes to stage media events, or whatever, and not to sit down and cooperate with City officials. 

I feel like someone like Darel Grothaus obviously has trust, as you've seen by the numerous testimonies of many of these community people who feel like they can sit down and they can talk to someone like him. In the past, he's demonstrated that he has been able to, say, open the doors of government  to people in the past who have often felt like those doors have been closed and they've had a very difficult time finding access to the mystery of government decision making.  So I think that his past actions have proven to be very helpful to ameliorating conflict and to integrating portions of the citizenry of the city into the process of decision making. 

The second point is that Darel is very knowledgeable, as has been demonstrated in several of the examples earlier in other testimony.  My own experience came when I had to go back to Washington, D.C. for several meetings and had the opportunity to speak before the Senate Finance Committee.  And I was able to sit down and talk to Darel about the type of problems that cities have and in light of the legislation that was coming up at the federal level.  There are always numerous bills that are pending in Congress that will affect neighborhoods throughout the country, but especially Seattle.  Darel has a very good understanding of not only the impact of that legislation but how it can be implemented through the various regulatory agencies.  And that kind of insight only comes through a kind of experience in working with those kind of officials.  Darel does have that experience and I'm not too sure if there'll be any other candidates for positions that can rely on that kind of experience.  

So, for those two reasons and many others that have been mentioned earlier, I support his nomination.

The entire Urban Development and Housing meeting can be heard here. Related documents include Clerk File 286068 and Department of Community Development Director's Records,  Record Series 1600-03 and the Office of Management and Planning Law and Justice Planning Manager's Records, Record Series 5010-01.

Citation: Urban Development and Housing meeting, February 15, 1978. Event ID 4465, Seattle City Council Legislative Department Audio Recordings, 4601-03.