Former Washougal councilor recounts campaign journey

Joyce Lindsay’s book, ‘Knock, Knock,’ details humor, humanity of election trail

“It’s never too late, and you’re never too old.”

That is just one of the messages former Washougal City Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay wanted to convey in her newly released book, “Knock, Knock: How a 72-year-old woman got mad, ran for city council, and knocked on 1,000 doors to win the election.”

“I think being old was an advantage,” Lindsay recently told The Post-Record.

Lindsay was discussing her initial run for the Washougal City Council in 2012, when she decided to knock on 1,000 doors and actually talk to the people she hoped to represent.

“They didn’t know me,” she said of the Washougal residents who answered all of those door knocks. “They thought I looked like a nice lady, so they would open their doors — and, even if they weren’t interested in what I had to say, no one was really mean to me. I never felt afraid. That was the advantage of being an old woman.”

Lindsay, who had moved from Seattle to Washougal in 2004, had been politically active throughout her life and was no stranger to the art of “doorbelling.” When she was 21 years old, Lindsay went house to house, ringing doorbells and urging whomever answered to vote for John F. Kennedy in the upcoming presidential election. She did the same when Lyndon B. Johnson ran four years later.

“Doorbelling is my superpower,” Lindsay writes in her book. “I enjoyed going to the door of a home, knocking, or ringing the bell and wondering who would answer.”

Her 58-page book details some of the characters she met while knocking on doors in Washougal.

Some told Lindsay she had their vote after just a few minutes of conversation. Others were less welcoming — including one man who told Lindsay he hated politics and everything it stood for and another whose “very loud, scary voice boomed from a window by the door” that the 72-year-old city council candidate should get off their property immediately.

“I did. Fast!” Lindsay writes in “Knock, Knock” about the latter encounter. “Sometimes it’s best to follow orders.”

And there were a few very pleasant surprises – including the woman who led Lindsay into a beautiful garden with fish ponds and intricate flower beds.

“I marveled at the sheer unexpectedness of it,” Lindsay writes. “We drank a cup of jasmine tea and visited while she fed the little jeweled fish. You just never know when you knock on a door who will answer.”

All of her door-knocking paid off in the end. Lindsay won her city council seat with more than 53% of the vote, and she served on the Washougal City Council for her two the next six years — until 2018, when, at the age of 78, she decided to move to Bellingham in northwestern Washington to be closer to her daughter, Jocelyn. By the time she left Washougal, Lindsay had become well known for her advocacy for public art, parks and other “common good” types of projects that enriched Washougal residents’ lives. In 2017, Lindsay received the Florence B. Wager V-Formation Flyer award from the Parks Foundation of Clark County for her dedication to protecting and enhancing Washougal’s parks, trails and recreation programs.

Looking out for her constituents was a role Lindsay took very seriously, and said she always tried to have patience and understanding as a city councilor.

“As a public figure, I was accountable and had to have patience with people,” Lindsay said. “People would come to the Council and be upset about something, so I was trying to be stable and patient and, hopefully, wise.”

And if doorbelling was a superpower for Lindsay, so was getting along with folks who may have had polar opposite political views.

“When I was on the Council, it was a contentious Council,” Lindsay said. The majority of the Council in Washougal at that time had a “conservative Christian agenda” that was vastly different from Lindsay’s more progressive views, she said. “But I’d had a life of politics, so I had to get along with people I didn’t agree with.”

And, in the end, she was always able to find common ground with her fellow Council members.

“When you can get seven people to come together on an issue, it’s so satisfying,” Lindsay said. “I loved the whole experience. It was a growth opportunity for me as a human.”

Lindsay, who turned 84 this month, said she misses her Washougal friends and community, but she no longer misses the deep feeling of responsibility she carried as a city leader.

“I’ve never found community like I found in Washougal,” Lindsay said. “I found some really good friends there, and I miss that. But I like the retired life in Bellingham and I don’t miss the responsibility of (representing) the city and the people. It was a responsibility I felt keenly. And it was like worrying about your child all the time. And I don’t miss that tension in my life. But I do miss the people terribly.”

In her book, Lindsay gives credit to many of those people who helped her on her path toward becoming a city councilor — and to those who taught her that she couldn’t do it all alone.

“If you’re going to run for public office, you need friends. Lots and lots of friends,” Lindsay writes in “Knock, Knock.” “One morning as I was driving to my corner to wave signs, I realized it was dark! I had a scary thought. Was I crazy to be doing this? Was it dangerous? Here I was going to smile and wave in the dark, but I knew I had friends that were coming to join me. I wouldn’t be alone.”

She had always considered herself to be fully independent.

“I didn’t need other people,” Lindsay explained in her book. “I wasn’t a joiner. I worked hard, and I worked alone.”

Her city council campaign changed that perspective.

“When I was organizing my campaign, the women and men that I had been with in Rotary, my women’s business organization, and neighbors began showing up to help. People I didn’t know well wanted to help. They doorbelled with me, stood in the dark waving signs, and wore my campaign T-shirts. They were there to support me. I’ll never forget that.”

Lindsay’s book, “Knock, Knock” offers a thoughtful, humorous look at the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running for — and winning — a small-town city council seat.

Lindsay hopes the book will energize others who want to help their own towns thrive. As the back of “Knock, Knock” explains: “This little book will make you smile, and hopefully inspire you to get out in your own community and participate in local government.”

Lindsay’s book, “Knock, Knock,” is available for purchase online at Ama zon.com.