In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” Lloyd Hara took it to heart. It’s why he went to graduate school to study public affairs and spent the past 40 years in public service.
Now in his sixth year as the King County Assessor, Hara, ’62, ’64, continues to blaze trails. He made King County the first in the nation to send appraisers into the field with iPads to make the valuation process quicker and more efficient. His department also launched a website with an app called LocalScape, which gives users all the information the assessor’s office has, making the property-valuation process completely transparent.
Hara isn’t a razzle-dazzle kind of guy and he doesn’t have a glamorous job. He routinely puts in 12-hour workdays, attends endless meetings, and shows up in Olympia and at public events to the point where people ask, “Where’s Lloyd?” if he misses one. He makes 200 presentations each year to educate people about how and why their property is valued as it is.
Need proof of his driven approach? Talk to his younger colleagues. Deputy Assessor Tre’ Maxie remembers buying a new pair of shoes for his first day on the job in January “and we walked so much that by late February, I had a hole in the bottom of my shoe.”
Hara comes from a family of Huskies. His father, James Hara, ’33, and his mother, Shuko Hara, ’36, both graduated from the School of Pharmacy; his sisters are also University of Washington graduates. Hara graduated from Roosevelt High School after spending much of his childhood in Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin. His father, who had connections in the Midwest, moved the family out of Seattle temporarily to avoid the internment of West Coast Japanese Americans during World War II.
Still, Hara faced discrimination—and it spurred him to end it where he could. An example: in the 1980s, Hara was asked to form a Rotary Club in the International District-Pioneer Square area. Back then, Rotary did not accept women. But Hara and his fellow Rotarians broke with the organization’s laws to accept women—not one, but 15. Rod Dembowski, ’01, King County Council member, has known Hara for more than two decades.
“Lloyd is like the tortoise in the fable,” he says. “Day in and day out, year in and year out, he moves policy forward. Lloyd is patient, thoughtful and strategic. And that tends to win the race.” Before becoming the county assessor, Hara was an officer during the Vietnam War, a Seattle Port Commissioner, King County’s youngest auditor and Seattle City Treasurer for 13 years. In 2012, an endowed fund in the Evans School of Public Affairs was created in Lloyd Hara’s name to support graduate students committed to excellence in local government.
Hara has fond memories of the Institute of Public Affairs at the UW, the precursor to the Evans School. “I was in a class of five. You couldn’t duck under the table or sleep or sit in class for an hour and not be asked to respond to questions,” recalls Hara. It’s unlikely Lloyd Hara would have been caught napping.