Goodbye, Mr. Mayor

Lloyd Furman, flanked by city employees Rick Hill and Debbie Mahler, enjoy an early morning coffee at The Braeburn. After eight years as the Langley mayor and a total of 10 years on the Langley City Council, Furman said he will enjoy his new free time after walking away from Langley’s political scene. - Jennifer Conway
Lloyd Furman, flanked by city employees Rick Hill and Debbie Mahler, enjoy an early morning coffee at The Braeburn. After eight years as the Langley mayor and a total of 10 years on the Langley City Council, Furman said he will enjoy his new free time after walking away from Langley’s political scene.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Lloyd Furman — the 22nd mayor of Langley — is working hard in his last month at City Hall.

While Furman admitted this week he looks forward to his first real time off in 10 years, he has not let the workload slow while preparing to hand the city off to incoming mayor Neil Colburn. Taking a break early Monday morning, Furman thought back to the day in 1993 when he joined the Langley City Council after moving back to his childhood home of Whidbey Island with his wife, Marilyn.

Furman grew up on Edgecliff Drive in Langley, but his career in the forest products industry took him far from the island. Moving to Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Oregon, Georgia and eventually back to Washington, Furman oversaw the manufacture of lumber and plywood as a general manager and, later, vice president.

Newly retired when he moved back to the island in 1992, Furman said he felt he didn’t have enough to do, so he ran for the council in 1993. After winning the seat by one vote, he served as a councilman from 1994 to 1996. Then, he decided to run for mayor, in part for family reasons. His grandfather, Frank Furman, was Langley’s first mayor in 1913.

“That was always in the back of my mind,” Furman said.

Over the past eight years, the city has changed under Furman’s leadership. The U.S. Postal Service built a new post office and the city built public restrooms and visitor center. The city’s fire department was transferred into Island County Fire District 3.

“There’s been quite a few highlights,” Furman said.

During his tenure, Furman — with the city council — retired $320,000 in short term debt and liabilities that had Langley in the red when he entered the mayor’s office. The city now has an 8-percent reserve in its general fund.

Furman said he is proud having been able to operate the city like a business, and “not spending money we don’t have.”

But mixed with the highlights are a few low points. The two Furman points out are an abortive attempt to extend sewers on Edgecliff Drive, and a recent denial by the city council of a request to petition for the annexation of some acreage on Coles Road.

“I disagree with the council on that,” said Furman about the latter.

Despite disagreements with the council, Furman is the first to admit that the mayor alone cannot make a difference without the support and expertise of the city staff and council. On most votes over the years, he was able to sway the council to his viewpoint on many issues.

Neil Colburn, the mayor elect and the only council member to predate Furman, said disagreements between he and the mayor have led many to believe the two are not friends. That is a misplaced belief.

“He was a friend then and he’s still a friend now,” said Colburn. “And I still disagree with him.”

According to Colburn, the two even argued over who would run for mayor in 1995, as both wanted to see the other in the position. It came down to whose wife objected less, Colburn said.

“That’s why he ended up running for mayor,” he said.

Having served 14 years on the council, Colburn said the mood of the body changed dramatically when Furman was first elected mayor. He pointed to a sense of professionalism that didn’t exist before Furman took office.

“I think we’ve been really lucky to have Lloyd,” Colburn said.

Lynn Hicks, Langley’s city attorney and administrator, has spent less time with Furman, having worked with him for a little over a year. But in that time, she said she gained respect for him by watching him negotiate through tough issues that often put him in a negative light.

“I really enjoyed working with him,” she said.

Don Smith, chief of Island County Fire District 3, said he is appreciative to Furman for moving the city’s fire protection to the district.

Having worked with Furman for special events like the Island County Fair and Choochokam, Smith said Furman has always been easy to deal with and interested in things that benefit the city.

“Our ability to protect that relies on the cooperation of the city,” Smith said.

Langley’s City Planner Jack Lynch agreed that there was an ease to his relationship with Furman. He was also impressed that Furman was open to advice from city employees, especially considering the amount of work required of the mayor — who is, on the city’s books, only part time.

“I was always amazed how much time he spent at City Hall,” he said.

Ray Honerlah, who has served on the city council since 1998, said working with Furman over the past five years has been interesting. He said he was grateful for the hard work Furman put in alongside the council. When it came time to doing the city’s annual budget, Furman was there to nitpick every item.

“He didn’t just toss it in our laps to work out,” Honerlah said. “That was wonderful.”

When Furman began as mayor in 1996, City Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Mahler was one of many employees in city hall terrified of what their workplace would become. Since then, she said, Furman has proved himself to be a great boss. Further, City Hall has evolved into a more efficient and professional workplace.

Mahler remembers when it snowed one day and she was not able to get to work. She said Furman drove to her house and picked up Mahler and her children. He dropped her children off at child care, and transported her to work.

“He wasn’t about to not let me come to work,” Mahler said with a laugh.

Furman has also gained respect from officials working outside the city. Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said he met Furman several years ago when Furman moved back to Whidbey Island. After working with him on many committees, like the Council of Governments, Shelton said he has been impressed.

“The city of Langley was lucky to have him,” said Shelton.

With his term ending with the turn of the calendar year, Furman has no big plans, unlike the last time he retired. Except for an annual trip to Mexico with his wife this winter, Furman plans only to live in a stress free environment.

“What I don’t want to do is look at a calendar,” he said.

He looks forward to spending more time with his wife, and taking a few shorter trips and working around the house.

Marilyn Furman looks forward to that.

“He’s going to do just exactly what he wants to do,” she said. “We just have to wait and see what comes up.”

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