Four long-time civic leaders in Sammamish decided not to seek reelection the City Council. They deserve the thanks for their community service here, and in the case of one member, her service pre-dating Sammamish.
Don Gerend, Bob Keller, Kathy Huckabay and Tom Odell will go off the Council Dec. 31. Each has put in years of public service doing what they think is best and working toward a goal of a better Sammamish.
Certainly, many will disagree with many of their decisions, tactics and in some cases, demeanor. But everyone should understand that there was no nefarious agenda, only what they thought was best for the City.
To be sure, I have had my political and personal differences with each. I’ve supported, and wound up opposing, each as I disagreed with policies pursued and tactics undertaken.
But none of this diminishes the debt of gratitude owed to public servants whose only thanks, all too often, is complaint and criticism.
Don Gerend was one of the original Council members and served continuously since 1999. He was originally viewed by the 1999 Council somewhat as an outcast because, after that bitter election, Gerend reached out to the losing candidates and their supporters in what today would be called a bipartisan effort that is the subject today of so much political disdain.
Gerend, a developer in a previous life (so-to-speak), always represented a developer’s viewpoint on the council, but he wasn’t dogmatic about it. He represented a viewpoint that was needed, especially for the small property owner who wanted to develop his property for profit or retirement. At the same time, Gerend wanted to protect Sammamish’s environment.
Over the years, Gerend found himself in the middle between Council factions. Often the swing vote, he also tried to make peace. Thus, he would catch hell from both sides.
Kathy Huckabay spent 30 years in public service with Issaquah, Sammamish and other organizations. Say what you will about her current term on the City Council, and I’ve said a lot, anyone giving 30 years of volunteer service deserves accolades.
Huckabay was also an original Council member, serving all but two years continuously; she took four years off prior to the current term. Even though the City Council is officially non-partisan, it was well known in 1999 that Huckabay was the lone Democrat on the original Council. Like Gerend, she was largely ostracized that first year. She and Gerend became natural allies then.
Over the 15 years since incorporation, Huckabay advocated for the environment (though this seemed to waiver some last year), human services, etc. Huckabay tended to be at times more focused on regional issues than Sammamish issues, most notably last year’s Sound Transit 3 vote that she supported.
Regardless, 30 years are 30 years and her contributions to Sammamish’s early days were invaluable.
Bob Keller is the Council’s short-timer: he is finishing up one term, unusual in Sammamish history. (Only John James and John Curley before him were one-termers.)
Keller spent several years on the Planning Advisory Board and the Planning Commission, where he helped shape environmental and traffic policies (all since weakened in many respects by the City Councils at the time and since), and the Sammamish Town Center, now under construction and in limited operation with the opening last month of Metropolitan Market.
Keller’s mark during his one term on the Council was to take an atrocious Comprehensive Plan recommendation from Staff and the Planning Commission and co-lead (with then-Council Member Nancy Whitten) a rewrite of just awful proposed changes to the environmental policies.
When not in service to the City, Keller led the Kiwanis Club as president for many years, staying active in other public service.
Tom Odell is finishing eight years on the Council, two terms. He wasn’t on any City
committees or commissions before being elected, but he was a regular at Planning Commission meetings during the Town Center process. Thus, when he was elected, Odell was pretty familiar with a lot of City issues.
Odell provided his own list of accomplishments when he announced Saturday he won’t seek a third term (humility is sometimes one of Odell’s shortcomings). What Odell didn’t mention was his strong effort behind the scenes to solve some of the problems between East Lake Sammamish Trail property owners through his interaction with King County officials.
Odell’s style as a Council Member and as Mayor often left people fuming; his intolerance of public comment and efforts to silence officials with whom he disagreed were his biggest failings.
But his dedication, hard work and, yes, even his grumpy, curmudgeonly ways, were benefits to the City.
Institutional knowledge and regional ties
When these four leave the Council in December, a huge amount of institutional knowledge will leave with them. So will relationships with regional committees and elected officials from other jurisdictions.
I wrote last year that I’m not into naming things after politicians. But I do think Gerend deserves something more than a plaque somewhere on some obscure wall. Gerend spent, figuratively speaking, as much time representing Sammamish on regional committees and trekking to Olympia as he did in Sammamish representing citizens. The time he put in—all for a pittance in stipends—on behalf of the citizens of Sammamish is simply mind-boggling.
Perhaps the Donald Gerend Council Room would be most fitting.
Or perhaps the Sammamish Arts Commission could create The Donald Gerend Rocket for City Hall plaza to reflect the rocket scientist he once was—and which was his tag line in the first City Council election in 1999.
Whatever—Gerend is an exception to my aversion to naming things.
By Scott Hamilton