John Rittenhouse is proud of human services impact

January 5, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

John Rittenhouse

John Rittenhouse

During a single City Council term, John Rittenhouse advanced watershed legislation to reshape city elections and establish a human services campus in Issaquah.

The former councilman led the effort to cap city campaign contributions at $500 for cash and in-kind donations from a single party — a measure the council overwhelmingly approved in May.

Rittenhouse led the push to open a proposed human services campus, a clearinghouse where needy people can receive food, healthcare and employment. The council OK’d the first steps toward a campus — location scouting and business planning — in a unanimous vote last month.

Before Rittenhouse left the council last week, colleagues praised him as affable and effective.“John has been a joy to work with,” Councilman Fred Butler said. “He’s thorough, he’s detailed, he’s analytical.

“He has a dry sense of humor that just at the right time can make a boring and dull subject perk right up with just the right comment,” Butler added.

Mayor Ava Frisinger praised Rittenhouse for efforts to bring a human services campus to Issaquah. She also noted how he managed the Council Land Use Committee, where members tackled Issaquah Highlands development issues for months last year.

“We owe you a great amount of gratitude for your work in human services and affordable housing, and the means in which you take very long land-use code amendments — inches and inches of paper — and sit there and ask if there are any questions,” Frisinger said.

Council President Maureen McCarry said council members would miss Rittenhouse and fellow outgoing Councilman David Kappler.

“Your commitment to public service is just immeasurable in just what you’ve done,” she said at a Dec. 21 committee meeting.

Colleagues also described Rittenhouse as the resident human services expert on the council. City Council members listed the establishment of a human services campus as a 2010 goal.

“He, during his time on the council, has laid the groundwork for a new chapter in our history of providing human services to those in need,” Butler said.

Although Rittenhouse left the council Dec. 31, a signature issue he championed as a councilman will remain a priority. He will work with Faith in Action, a senior support network, Eastside Human Services Forum and Family Resource Center, a Redmond nonprofit and a model for the proposed Issaquah campus.

Rittenhouse said he plans to play a role in the development of the long-planned center.

“I’m confident that I can still help to guide it off the council,” he said.

The former councilman, a Microsoft program manager, served as a member of the city Planning Policy Commission before he entered the 2005 council race.

Rittenhouse campaigned against the proposed Southeast Bypass and, as a councilman, voted with other bypass opponents to halt plans for the Tiger Mountain roadway. Rittenhouse described the contentious 2008 vote to derail the bypass as a key accomplishment.

He said he would miss the ability to make changes to improve the quality of life for city residents.

“What you don’t realize until you’re sitting up there is, if you want something, you can make something tangible happen,” he said.

Rittenhouse urged new councilmen Tola Marts and Mark Mullet to work alongside colleagues to accomplish goals.

“Everyone on the council is really trying to get to the same goal,” Rittenhouse said.

Newcomer Mullet now occupies the seat held by Rittenhouse. Mullet — the first highlands resident to join the council — cruised to victory as the sole candidate in the Position 1 race.

When Rittenhouse opted against a re-election campaign in June, he hinted at a return to city politics. He mentioned the possibility again as he left the council last week.

He said he saved the campaign signs from his 2005 race, just in case.

“We’ll see how bored I get,” he said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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