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Burgermeister: North Bend's Ken Hearing voted Best Elected Official and serves the Best Burger
The secret to making a good burger, according to Scott’s Dairy Freeze owner Ken Hearing, sounds a lot like advice to elected officials.
“Paying attention,” Hearing says, is how a worker can get a consistently cooked, reliably juicy hamburger into a customer’s hands, and it seems to be his approach to running a city, too. Now in his third term as North Bend Mayor, Hearing won the Best of the Valley reader poll for both Best Elected Official, and for Best Burger. He’s got a little more experience in the burger category, since he’s owned Scott’s since 1990, and only been the mayor “10 years, two months, and 21 days,” but he also got a crash course in civic involvement, way back then.
It was around 1988, and the city had begun putting medians in on North Bend Way. Hearing’s active and vocal opposition to the medians earned him an invitation from then-Mayor Chris Lodahl.
“He said if I was going to be a pain in the (rear) I should join the planning commission,” Hearing said with a laugh. And it worked. “I’ve used that myself — if you’re going to be a pain, go to work!”
While on the planning commission, he developed the taste for city government. His goal in joining had been to delay or reverse the economic blight he saw then in downtown North Bend. After 10 years on the planning commission, he decided to resign his seat and run for mayor. One of his first acts of office was to replace himself on the planning commission, he recalled.
Although he still hasn’t fully addressed the business blight problem, Hearing says he’s accomplished most of his original goals and then some, including obtaining water rights for the city, and stopping further development on septic systems until sewer systems were in place. It was also his goal to unify North Bend’s and Snoqualmie’s police forces.
He has an advantage when it comes to staying in touch with his constituents, and the name of that advantage is Scott’s, nearly unchanged since the 50s. At some point, everyone in town ends up at the burger joint downtown.
“People walk up to the counter, and if they see me, they want to talk politics,” he said. “If I’m able, I’ll stop and talk politics.”
Sometimes, though, he has to be paying more attention to the food on the flame, so he also makes a point of accepting as many invitations as he gets, to speak, to network, or just to a party.
“At the grocery stores, too,” he says. “I try to be as many places as I can be. I think that’s the part of the job that’s probably the hardest… but that’s where you learn where your constituents want. You listen to them.”