Our State’s 19th Governor, Booth Gardner was honored last Saturday at a memorial service a day after a family funeral. Gardner died March 15 of complications from Parkinsons disease at his Tacoma home. The accolades for Gardner since his passing have been enormous and have highlighted his family’s legacy on Yelm in the last 25 years.
Yelm’s local developers Margaret Clapp and her sister Elizabeth Clapp Williams are related to the former Governor by marriage. The two sisters are direct descendants of Matthew Norton Clapp, chairman of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation. “Gardners parents divorced when he was very young. Through his mother’s remarriage [to Norton Clapp], he became an heir to the Weyerhaeuser fortune,” quoting Wikipedia. The Booth Garner/Norton Clapp connection to Yelm is through the local descendants of Norton Clapp’s son, Matthew.
Since the late 1980’s, the City of Yelm has been imprinted behind the scenes by the Clapp sisters’ wealth and influence as heirs to the former Weyerhaeuser chairman. The following lists some, yet not all, of their impacts on Yelm:
– 1993-1994: Margaret Clapp serves the City of Yelm on the Yelm Vision Committee to create a document to guide Yelm into the next century, listing the preservation of Yelm’s downtown core and providing stringent growth guidelines to preserve Yelm’s historical areas and character, to not be a mecca for multinational corporations, like Spanaway, WA.
– January 5, 1995: The Yelm Vision Plan is officially presented to the city and adopted.
– April 23, 1995: Norton Clapp, “former Weyerhaeuser Co. board chairman and one of Washingtons wealthiest citizens, has died at his home after a long illness,” quoting the AP.
– 1997: Prairie Park Development is unveiled to the community, which includes building a planned movie theater, hotel and office complex, all owned/managed by Clapp sisters, and totally opposite of the Clapp-engendered Yelm Vision Statement to protect the downtown core. Prairie Park will be built a quarter of a mile outside of the downtown core she sought to protect.
– Fall, 2000: Clapp’s Yelm Cinemas opens – first movie theater in Yelm.
– 2001: Clapp offers a unique 10-year lease deal to Timberland Regional Library (TRL) to relocate Yelm’s Library to her new building, until the city can provide a city-owned structure. Most all of Timberland’s facilities are city-owned and provided. On July 17, 2002, the Yelm Library opened with a 10 year lease in a new, much larger library in the Fay Fuller Building in the Prairie Park development.
– 2004: Margaret Clapp, a prominent local business woman and Chair of the Finish Line Committee sought to attract a NASCAR racetrack to Yelm, without public input and against her 1995 Yelm Vision Plan document she co-created. Ms. Clapp commented on the City of Yelm’s pursuit of the NASCAR racetrack to TRPC in April, 2004.
Community outcry nixed the track.
– February, 2005: “Venture Bank President Jon Jones [who served with Clapp on The Finish Line Committee] was fired and Chief Financial Officer Cathy Reines resigned over unspecified ‘relationship’ matters that indicated “poor judgment,'” quoting the Seattle Times. The Finish Line Committee issued a proposal to attract a NASCAR track in Yelm. Jones’s “poor judgement” was evident a year earlier, prior to his dalliance, by excluding community input on the NASCAR proposal, which failed to get support here.
-2007: Clapp has in her employment Yelm City Council member John Thompson as Prairie Park Manager, former Yelm City Council member, fellow Finish Line Committee Vice-Chair & Yelm Planning Commission Chair Glen Cunningham, along with former Mayor Adam Rivas’s wife Gail.
– July 20, 2008: Clapp weighs-in with her support for the planned 5,000 home development known as Thurston Highlands, yet voices her concern to the amount of commercial space that would create a “second-town so close to us” to compete with her Prairie Park Development, a “second town” build outside of the Yelm Vision Plan’s basic tenet to protect downtown Yelm.
– May 5, 2011: The Yelm Chamber of Commerce sent an e-mail naming Margaret Clapp “Citizen of the Year”.
– April 30, 2011: Yelm Mayor Ron Harding presented a plan to the TRL Board of Directors where the city would purchase the existing library space on the 2nd floor of Clapp’s Prairie Park Building for $1.2 million dollars through a 20-year bond, with Clapp reducing the price by $200,000 to $1 million. This after Harding told the community the city could only afford to purchase a facility for $600,000. The mayor violated the Yelm city code by offering this deal unilaterally, he admitted, without consulting the Yelm City Council. The mayor to this day has never stated what other buildings the city identified as potential libraries, always touting Clapp’s condo space as the only viable option.
– Fall, 2011: Yelm Cinema’s owner Margret Clapp holds 10th Anniversary celebration.
– 2012: Clapp hires the popular former Yelm Community Schools Community Relations Coordinator Denise Bagwell to manage her Yelm Prairie Hotel and former Mayor Adam Rivas’s handsome and articulate son Dominic, to manage Yelm Cinemas.
– 2012: Margaret Clapp and her sister’s husband Joe Williams are listed as “Yelm, WA Political Heavyweights” for their donations to local political causes.
Follow the money and one can see who has been instrumental behind-the-scenes in “pulling the strings” in Yelm for almost a quarter of a century.