Erik Larson

“We’ve cut investment in ourselves, and we’re not seeing any growth; we’re not seeing any renewal. If you don’t invest in yourself, no one else is going to.”

- Erik Larson

erik larson

Cars honk as the mayor poses at the Welcome-to-Aberdeen sign on the bluff overlooking the city. The sign borrows its “Come As You Are” from a song written by Aberdeen’s most famous son, Kurt Cobain. A Nirvana fan, Mayor Larson was a toddler when Cobain took his own life. John Hughes

Left: Larson celebrates his landslide victory in the 2015 Aberdeen mayoral race at Duffy’s, one of his family’s popular restaurants. Kyle Mittan/The Daily World

Middle: Larson won two state swimming championships as an Aberdeen Bobcat in 2010, setting a meet record in the 100 freestyle. Larson family collection

Right: Erik Larson (front) and his brother Grant duck hunting on Grays Harbor. “The sunrise is just beginning to appear on the horizon as I get to the blind,” Larson wrote. “And I think to myself how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place.” Kyle Mittan/Washington Coast Magazine

Who is he?

After earning an engineering degree at Washington State University, Erik Larson did something out of the ordinary for a millennial who grew up in Aberdeen: He came back home to the old timber town pundits have written off as dying. In 2015 he was elected mayor, winning nearly 72 percent of the vote. Larson was 23. He’s the youngest mayor of a sizable city in Washington State history.

Larson is the great-great-grandson of a Swede who arrived on Grays Harbor more than a century ago. Erik is proud of his roots but not bound by them. Growing up, he washed enough dishes at his family’s restaurants to know he needed to go his own way. The mayor was an honor student and state champion swimmer in high school. At WSU he was inspired by the late Elson Floyd, the university’s visionary president.

Larson is a duck hunter who believes Grays Harbor’s largely unspoiled natural beauty, affordable real estate and deep-water port will draw new investment if the city can rehabilitate derelict historic buildings, clean up its grittiness and secure funding for a major new flood control project.

“If I can leverage my age to spotlight some progressive things” so much the better, Larson says. “I think the biggest thing we’ve faced is a lack of vision. I want to change that.”