Geiger counting down the days

Several terms back, Port Orchard Councilman Robert Geiger made his first attempt at retiring from public life and focusing on his family-owned business, Geiger Pharmacy.

Even then, Geiger held decades of City Council experience and felt he had served the city well and was ready to move on.

But others in Port Orchard wanted him to stay, so he applied for the two-year at-large seat on the council, assuming he could limit his time.

“Two years didn’t seem as long as four years,” he said.

But again, that was a number of years back.

“I thought I was only going to do it the one time,” he said. “But then there was really a lot of arm-bending and pushing to get me keep on.”

This year, however, Geiger put a definitive end to his 45-year career on the City Council. He did not apply for his seat again, leaving a place on the City Council for Councilman-to-be Jerry Childs of Kitsap Street, and making Councilman John Clauson the senior member of the governing body.

“I guess you could just say it was long enough,” he said. “You can’t be egotistical to think the world is on your shoulders. It isn’t, and I never thought it was.”

Back in 1962, Geiger was the fifth owner of a pharmacy at the Corner of Sidney and Bay Street. He ran for City Council at the encouragement of Lee Caldwell, who worked for his father at the Caldwell Trading Post.

Geiger came on the council with ambitions to extend city limits down to Gorst, where he saw a lot of business potential for the city.

While the borders didn’t extend as far as he had hoped, Geiger oversaw a number of major projects, working with an ever-changing succession of mayors and council members.

Geiger worked closely to help move and expand the Port Orchard Branch of the Kitsap Regional Library, encouraged adding fluoride to Port Orchard’s water and worked to update the city’s sewer system as mandated by the federal government.

One of his personal beliefs was to achieve these accomplishments through the hard work of the council and local staff, using only the money they had.

Geiger has often opposed turning to outside consultants or taking loans for projects, explaining the city should pursue projects with the money the have, and use its internal resources.

This mentality was seen in action when the council pushed building City Hall with no debt, Clauson explained.

Geiger gained some of that monetary sense early in his time in the council, when the city was working to save every penny.

“We were operating in dollars that, in those days, were very dear dollars,” Geiger said. “They were worth some money and you didn’t get very many of them, so a small expenditure was very seriously considered.”

He remembered one situation in which the city discussed a $4 newspaper publication at length, trying to determine if it was worth the fee.

Looking to the future, Geiger advised the council to watch those dollars, and follow his tenant of spending only what you have, and using the resources already in place.

“We have a reluctance or lack of confidence in the city,” he said. “You have to go out and hire somebody. The fact that we have to hire somebody over and above the staff that we have ... to do things that really we have done in the past by ourselves.”

He said many will argue that pursuing projects in-house could lead to second-rate projects.

“Hey, that’s life,” he said. “You have to have confidence in yourself. You have to have confidence in each other and work with each other and not just shirk a complicated problem.”

In Geiger’s absence, Clauson becomes the longest-serving member on the governing board, saying “I guess I feel old.”

But the difference in experience between the two is significant. When Geiger took his first oath of office at City Hall, Clauson was still in elementary school.

“I suspect that folks will be looking to me for some of that historic knowledge of what we’ve done in the past,” Clauson said.

As for Geiger, he’ll be pursuing his own private interests and considering the possibility of retiring from his pharmacy.

He sees his time spent on the council as his way of contributing to the community, and said he never planned to spend 45 years at it.

“There was no grand plan to break any track records,” he said. “It was just trying to actually get involved in things and contribute to getting the jobs done that needed to be done.”

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