Many memorable mayors managed Issaquah
June 30, 2009
By Jim Feehan
Portraits of Issaquah’s mayors can be found in a display case on the stairwell leading to the second floor of City Hall. The photos tell a great deal about the people and times of the fledgling city.
Some of the city’s early mayors were doctors, including Issaquah’s first mayor, Frank Harrell. During the Great Depression, Stella May Alexander was elected the first woman mayor, campaigning on the Taxpayers’ Ticket.
She was elected to a two-year term, defeating the Progressive ticket candidate, M.H. Clark. Ninety-three percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots and Alexander won 195-136. She lost in a recall election the following year.
In the last half of the 20th century, mayors such as Bill Flintoft and A.J. Culver had to grapple with the emerging growth of the quiet little burg on Lake Sammamish into a thriving bedroom community to Seattle.
Harrell came to the area as the surgeon of the Seattle Coal and Iron Co. He was elected mayor of Gilman without a dissenting vote in 1892. Seven years later, the town was renamed Issaquah, after the original Indian name Is-qu-ah.In the pioneer days
Governing of the small mining and timber community was far different a century ago.
During Mayor John McQuade’s term as mayor in 1900, the town enacted an ordinance demanding that every able-bodied man over 21 and under 50 pay a yearly poll tax of $3, or two days’ labor of eight-hour periods or $4 if they could not read.
The following year, electricity was introduced to the small town of about 600 when Issaquah entered into an agreement with Snoqualmie Falls Power Co. to bring power in the form of 30 incandescent lamps powered by electrical current.
The following year, H.R. Corson, was elected mayor. A doctor by trade, he came to town as the mining company director for the Issaquah Coal Co.
Following World War I, the two-year term of mayor was changed to four-year terms with the election of P.J. Smith.
‘Like she had cooties’
No look at the city’s mayors would be complete without mentioning Stella May Alexander, the city’s first woman mayor.
Mayor from 1932-1934, Alexander was later recalled because of a variety of conflicts with the City Council and the fire chief. A decade removed from passage of the 19th Amendment specifically guaranteeing women in the U.S. the right to vote, Alexander had a strong personality and some men of that era had a hard time working with her, said Erica Maniez, director of the Issaquah History Museums.
“She was referred to as the lady mayor, the woman mayor and the petticoat mayor,” Maniez said.
In one instance, three councilmen refused to serve under a petticoat mayor, she said.
“The men acted like she had cooties,” she said. “They didn’t want to sit at the table with her.”
Some speculated that her assertiveness would have been better tolerated if she had been a man.
The volunteer fire department resigned en masse over a dispute as to whether the fire department would fight fires outside the city limits. Alexander often clashed with Fire Chief Remo Castagno, who said that “no woman is going to run this city.” Castagno later served as mayor shortly after World War II.
Alexander lost a recall election in 1934. She moved to Renton and in 1940 she ran for Secretary of State. She was described as “the famous woman mayor and councilwoman of Issaquah” in her campaign literature, Maniez said.
Growing pains of a city
The opening of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge in 1940 (today’s Interstate 90 bridge over Lake Washington) brought more people to the Eastside. In 1960, work began on Interstate 90, connecting Issaquah with Seattle. A decade later, Issaquah’s population more than quadrupled to 4,300 residents.
Bill Flintoft and Keith Hansen brought Issaquah through its growing pains through the 1960s and early ‘70s, Maniez said.
“They helped guide the city as developers came to the area, and they accommodated that growth by developing codes and ordinances for those changes,” she said.
Tom Flintoft said his father Bill brought a common sense approach to managing growth.
“He realized that Issaquah was changing fast, but he wanted it to grow sensibly,” Tom Flintoft said. “There were those promoting growth and there was a no-growth faction. He sought to find a compromise between the two.”
With the growth, he planned for the infrastructure of water and sewer lines to accommodate the additional people, Tom Flintoft said.
He also insisted on an I-90 exit at East Sunset Way when the state initially balked at the notion.
“If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have that exit today,” he said.
From sleepy to thriving
A.J. Culver was mayor of Issaquah for most of the 1980s. Culver said he helped guide Issaquah from being a sleepy little town to a thriving commercial center.
During his term, the city approved development of the Pickering property, as well as the commercial center where Target and Safeway are located.
“It has made the difference between Issaquah being strapped for money and being financially well off,” Culver said. “And it will continue to be as a commercial center for the city. That continued by Rowan Hinds and Ava Frisinger, who is doing a fantastic job today as mayor.”
History of Issaquah mayors
F. W. Harrell —From Apr 27, 1892
Town of Gilman
(incorporated Apr 1892)
Two-year terms until 1918
From Jan. 10, 1893 — P. V. Davis
From Jan. 8, 1895 — John Davis
From Jan. 12, 1897 — John L. Hughes
From Jan. 10, 1899
Resigned Aug. 7, 1899
Town of Issaquah
(name changed Feb 1899)
From Sept. 5, 1899 — W. D. “Will” Conner, Filled unexpired term
From Jan. 3, 1900
Resigned April 27, 1900
April 27, 1900 – Jan. 8, 1901
Wm. E. Gibson, MD
Filled unexpired term
Jan. 8, 1901 – Jan. 10, 1905
H.R. Corson, M.D
Re-elected, served two terms
Jan. 10, 1905 – June 4, 1906
(resigned), Frank Day
June 4, 1906 – Jan. 14, 1913
William E. Gibson — Filled unexpired term and elected to three consecutive two-year terms
1913-1915 — P.J. Smith
1915-1917 — John H. Gibson
1917-1918 — C.R. Berry
1918-1921 — P.J. Smith
Two-year terms changed to four-year terms
1921-1924 — William E. Gibson
1924-1925 — V.M. McKibben
1926-1928 — P.J. Smith
1928-1930 — John Fischer
1930-1932 — L.R. Hepler
1932-1934 — Stella May Alexander,
First woman mayor
1934-1937 — Laurence J. Harris
1937-1940 — William Mitchell
1940-1947 — Thomas Gibson
1947-1948 — Albert Jensen
1948-1952 — Remo Castagno
1952-1956 — Alting R. “Buck” Lee
1956-1970 — James William “Bill” Flintoft
1970-1974 — Keith M. Hansen
1974-1981 — Herbert G. Herrington
1982-1989 — A.J. Culver
1990-1997 — Rowan C. Hinds
1998-present — Ava Frisinger
Source: City of Issaquah