After seven years as Mayor of Bellingham, it is with both personal excitement and sadness that I am announcing that I will not seek a third term. I plan to retire in December 2019.
When I first ran for Mayor in 2011, it was under the banner of “relationships, respect and results,” and I believe that during the past seven years, I have achieved much of what I set out to accomplish. Part of building relationships meant strengthening connections and communications with our employees, our partners, and the community – and with help from my great department head team and our wonderful staff, we moved forward on this goal right away. We unlocked the doors in City Hall and the Mayor’s office. I began chairing the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission every month and holding a department head meeting every week. It helped me stay in touch both inside the City and in the community.
Within my first year in office, we also made significant strides on strengthening our relationships with our government partners, and this was most evident with our waterfront. The City and Port of Bellingham agreed on a plan that provided environmental clean-up, parks, public access, housing, and jobs. Although these things take longer than many people would like, that agreement has led to the first public access through Waypoint Park and new street infrastructure to provide for future development on the site. I’m excited that we have finally moved forward on this monumental project in the heart of our city.
Building relationships has also meant joining with Whatcom County, the Port, the Lake Whatcom Sewer and Water District and other partners on county-wide measures such as the EMS levy and the Lake Whatcom Management Plan. We also joined with the County and the Port to create a joint lobbying team in Olympia – the first partnership of its kind in the state. We develop common goals and work together with our legislators to achieve them. It has resulted in funds for transportation, natural resources, environment, housing, energy, behavioral health, and education projects.
Building relationships also means both earning and giving respect to all parties involved. We’ve improved communications with both employees and the community through increased use of newsletters, a refreshed website, community news releases, and social media. We’ve joined with private individuals, businesses, and the non-profit sector to achieve community goals such as protecting Galbraith Mountain forever with recreation and conservation easements. We’ve opened Squalicum Creek Park and are developing a new community park in Cordata. We’ve permitted over 4,000 new residential units throughout the city. We’ve stabilized our biennial budget to provide reliability of services and steady City employment. It is my hope that these efforts have helped improve and restore confidence in local government.
Results are all around us. We’ve renewed both the Bellingham Housing Levy and Greenways in the past few years, providing support to affordable housing and our parks and trails. We are implementing our Samish Way Urban Village plan and closed two hotels that were unsafe. We have begun working with the private sector to redevelop two major properties, the former JCPenney building on Cornwall Avenue and Northwest Recycling in Old Town. We have implemented alternatives to incarceration that have allowed non-violent offenders to stay out of jail and continue to be productive members of society. We have worked to keep some of our major employers like Costco in Bellingham, and we’ve supported downtown through developing a retail strategy and hiring a retail specialist.
These are just a few of the examples of what we’ve accomplished in the past seven years. But I think what I have loved the most has been working with our staff and the public to build these things together. It has been a huge honor and a very special experience to be Mayor of the town where I was born and raised. I’ve worked with an amazing department head team and executive department staff, I’ve enjoyed having a great professional working relationship with Bellingham City Council, and I am continually amazed by the outstanding work of our City employees. This has been a very difficult decision to make because this is the best job I’ve ever had, but after 41 years of public service, as a speech therapist for Bellingham Public Schools, a state legislator and as Mayor of Bellingham, I feel that the timing is right.
Thank you for your support and partnership. It has been a great honor to serve as your Mayor. I look forward to continuing to work with you now and in whatever the future might bring.