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KNKX Connects: Local mayors come as they are in Grays Harbor County

Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel
Parker Miles Blohm
Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel

GRAYS HARBOR, WASH. — People might not think of Grays Harbor County first as a bastion of progress. But take a closer look at the area's leaders and you might get a different picture. 

Montesano is home to a mayor who has a lot of firsts after her name. As for the guy running the show in the county's largest city, the birthplace of Nirvana — well, let's just say he has a fresh perspective.   

Trailblazing transplant leads Montesano

Aberdeen is the biggest city in Grays Harbor County, but the county seat is over in Montesano, about 11 miles east.

Its mayor is Vini Samuel. Her family immigrated to the United States — from the southern tip of India — about 40 years ago, when she was a little girl. She grew up in Alaska. Then, in 1997, she moved to Grays Harbor County.

Samuel says she instantly fell in love with Montesano, because of the scenery, sure, but also — and mostly — because of the people. She talked with All Things Considered host Ed Ronco about what brought her here, what kept her here, and what the future holds. 

Millennial mayor of Aberdeen

Among grunge music fans, Aberdeen is known as the hometown of the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. A welcome sign on the highway leading into the city implores drivers to "Come As You Are." The same year Nirvana released "Nevermind," which is the album that features the hit single, the future mayor of Aberdeen was born.

Erik Larson was hailed as the "millennial mayor" when he was elected in 2015. He was 23 at the time. Larson sat down with KNKX reporter Simone Alicea at a coffee shop near City Hall.

KNKX Connects interview with Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.
A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.
Kari Plog is an award-winning reporter covering the South Sound, including Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties. Before transitioning to public radio in 2018, Kari worked as a print journalist at The News Tribune in Tacoma.
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