GARDINER — Wayne King, who served 18 years on the Jefferson County Public Utility District commission before he retired in 2018 to focus on his first love of race cars, has died.
King died Feb. 22, shortly before his 82nd birthday on March 2, according to the Kosec Funeral Home in Port Townsend. The cause of death was not announced. No services had been set as of Friday, the funeral home said.
King’s wife, Peggy, of Gardiner, was not available for comment.
“Wayne was an instrumental part of our utility,” said Kevin Streett, PUD general manager, in a press release. “He was a big driver in getting us to where we are today and will be deeply missed.”
King was remembered at Jefferson PUD as being a leader when the PUD expanded services widely and for having a prominent role in the utility taking over electrical power provision, according to the release.
He was remembered in Bakersfield, Calif., his hometown, as an enthusiastic competitor in race cars and an original member of the Smokers Car Club, which started the March Meet in 1959, according to a story in the Bakersfield Californian.
When he retired from the PUD in 2018, King, who had built and raced Top Fuel dragsters across the nation, announced that he planned to spend time in his Gardiner hydraulic machine shop building race car motors and consulting on race car tuning.
“He likes to say we met at the track, but that’s not true,” his wife of 50 years told the Californian.
“I was with some friends who wanted to visit someone and he was in his garage working on his car . It was about March Meet time,” she was quoted as saying. “I knew nothing about dragsters, nor did I care.”
Peggy King told the newspaper that he was “a wonderful guy…. He was so much fun. As for his racing, I just knew he was really good at it.”
The two were married in 1970 and moved to Southern California, then Kent before settling in Gardiner, the Californian said. King told the Peninsula Daily News that his pioneer family had settled in Gardiner.
King was first elected PUD commissioner in 2000 at a time when the Jefferson PUD was strictly a water and wastewater utility. He represented the rural District 3 area through three terms in office.
He was on the board for the purchase/exchange of the City of Port Townsend’s Tri-Area water systems for the PUD’s Glen Cove system in 2001, a project that expanded PUD water service nearly four-fold, the PUD said in its press release.
“He played an important role in expanding water services to Marrowstone Island residents,” the PUD said.
”Piece by piece, King brought resources to his large district with water and sewer system connections for Kala Point and Beckett Point residents, to the acquisition of a struggling water system on the Toandos Peninsula .”
Dan Toepper, the present commissioner for District 3, remembered King as “a great mentor and an invaluable source of experience” who had encouraged him to run for the seat.
“King helped set the stage for purchase of the local grid from Puget Sound Energy, marking the first private-to-public utility infrastructure purchase in Washington State in 70 years,” the release said.
The public vote authorizing the PUD to acquire the power grid from Puget Sound Energy was in 2008.
“His efforts led to customer-owned electric utility services for 20,000 residents, but he didn’t stop there,” the release said.
“As a commissioner, King worked for modernization of the PUDs aging infrastructure with efforts to begin advanced meter buildout,” the PUD said.
His efforts helped to lay the groundwork for PUD broadband, the release said.
“He was without pretense, and you never had to guess what he was thinking,” said Kenneth Collins, commissioner for District 2.
“We enjoyed each other’s sense of humor, and I felt a genuine warmth for him at the time that he retired.”
Said the PUD: “Wayne King is remembered for his unwavering support and commitment for Jefferson County residents.”
When he retired, King told the PDN: “I’ve tried my damnedest to do what I’ve felt is the best for the people. I like to drive around to the back of the building and look at the inventory, the trucks. It overwhelms me…where we are now and where we came from. I think of the people who helped us get there.
“We’ve done a good job.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.