Former Councilman David Kappler lauded for environmental record
January 5, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah claimed about 8,000 residents when David Kappler launched a successful City Council campaign in 1991.
Then, before the seismic shifts brought on by widespread growth, residents talked about still-unrealized plans to build urban villages on Cougar Mountain and Grand Ridge. Costco still maintained corporate headquarters in Kirkland.
Kappler, a tireless advocate for trails and open space preservation, won every election since his ’91 victory. The former councilman, who shaped decisions for almost 20 years, led the push to conserve land and cast crucial votes to shape transportation and public safety in Issaquah and across the Eastside.
When Kappler left the council Dec. 31, more than 7,000 people resided on Grand Ridge in the Issaquah Highlands, Cougar Mountain hosted the Talus development and Costco headquarters buzzed near Issaquah Creek.
Other council members lauded Kappler as a can-do leader with a commitment to quality-of-life issues.
“What has impressed me about Dave, he’s a practical problem solver,” Councilman Fred Butler said. “He has, over 16 years, demonstrated a long-term, sustained commitment to make things better in our city as it has grown from whatever the population was when he first came on the council to the 27,000 or so that it is now.”
Kappler, a longtime Issaquah Alps Trails Club member, is best known for his environmental record. As a councilman, he also helped establish Eastside Fire & Rescue and the Cascade Water Alliance, a regional group focused on water supply issues. Kappler served as the initial Issaquah representative to both organizations.
“What can possibly be said more about David’s service to this city?” Councilman Joshua Schaer said. “It’s been absolutely unbelievable all of the effort and time and energy that he’s put into everything for the city of Issaquah.”
Mayor Ava Frisinger honored Kappler when she declared Dec. 21 — the winter solstice — as David Kappler Day.
“The shortest day of the year, I might add,” Kappler quipped.
In 2007, when Kappler last ran for re-election, he campaigned against the proposed Southeast Bypass. He later voted with other bypass opponents to end plans to build the Tiger Mountain roadway. Just before he left the council, Kappler said the bypass decision sent a message about how residents wanted Issaquah to develop.
But the former councilman lamented the way the highlands developed, with fewer commercial outlets than city leaders envisioned in the mid-1990s when construction began. Plans for a 150-acre Microsoft campus in the community fizzled in 2004.
“We had big hopes for the Microsoft campus,” Kappler said, although he acknowledged the role the recession played in the growth slowdown.
The former councilman said the urban villages were “a huge change for Issaquah” but also “the right thing to do” because the agreements between the city and developers required huge tracts of open space to be preserved.
Maureen McCarry, who served alongside Kappler in the late 1990s and again for the past four years, described him as a mentor and the go-to source for environmental questions.
“He was really the person you’d go to for any environmental issues, for anything related to the mountains, to the Issaquah Alps, everything,” she said.
Kappler spent much of his last year on the council shepherding a food-packaging ordinance to outlaw polystyrene containers through the Council Sustainability Committee. The measure passed in a November council vote.
Colleagues also turned to Kappler when issues related to the Issaquah Alps — Tiger, Cougar and Squak mountains — reached the council. Butler described Kappler as the “resident trail expert.” At the last committee meeting Kappler attended, Butler recalled hiking with Kappler — and the time the councilmen got lost on Cougar Mountain.
“You’re not the first person,” Kappler said.
The commitment to conservation and trails earned Kappler the 2006 Ruth Kees Award for a Sustainable Community — the top city honor for people who take steps to protect natural resources. The award put Kappler in the company of environmental titans, such as trails advocate Harvey Manning and Kees, the first recipient.
Councilman John Traeger and Councilwoman Eileen Barber praised Kappler for the work he did to expand and improve the city trails network.
“I appreciate all the work you’ve done, because I enjoy the result,” Barber said.
A new generation
Newcomer Tola Marts now occupies the seat held by Kappler. The former councilman endorsed Marts early in the 2009 race, and campaigned for him. Marts won in a landslide against highlands resident and fellow newcomer Nathan Perea.
Despite the accolades Kappler accumulated during his tenure, he also attracted criticism in 2007, when he filed to run for a council seat sought by Traeger. Kappler withdrew his candidacy for the Position 6 seat and filed for another seat at the last minute. The maneuver left Traeger as the sole candidate for the Position 6 seat. Traeger ascended to the council unopposed, while Kappler went on to beat Bill Werner to retain a council seat.
Kappler, a retired middle school teacher from the Bellevue and Issaquah districts, bested electoral challengers since his first council race in 1991. He described the decision to retire as bittersweet.
“I’ll be able to say some things I couldn’t before,” he said.
With his 18-year council tenure complete, Kappler said he plans to lead more hikes for the trails clubs and help care for his elderly father. At a Dec. 21 meeting, he told fellow officials he will return to the council chambers when issues attract his attention.
Former colleagues said they expect Kappler to remain a presence in city issues, especially regarding conservation matters.
“Somehow, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Dave Kappler,” Butler said. “While he may not be on the City Council, I know Dave well enough to know he will be involved in a variety of different areas.”
Schaer, a close Kappler ally, said he plans to ask the former councilman for behind-the-scenes advice.
“I’m still going to call you up — even though you’re not going to be with us here on the council — to talk about any matters related to issues that I don’t quite understand,” Schaer said.
“You’re not quite off the hook,” he added.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.