Former Issaquah Mayor Herb Herrington dies
April 24, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Former Mayor Herb Herrington, a genteel Texan and the chief executive as Issaquah started a long metamorphosis from a one-stoplight town to a commercial hub, died April 13.
Herrington, 83, served as mayor from 1974-81, before the Eastside population boom reshaped Issaquah from a former coal-mining and logging settlement into a center for high-tech and service industries. Later city leaders credited Herrington for creating a City Hall culture more responsive to citizens’ concerns.
“One of the things I learned from him is that you can disagree without being disagreeable,” former Mayor Rowan Hinds said.
Compassion also defined Herrington’s legacy. In 1977, the then-mayor spearheaded Community Enterprises of Issaquah, a predecessor to AtWork! — a nonprofit organization dedicated to skills training and job placement for disabled people.
The former mayor, a Boeing aeronautical engineer, retired from the aircraft manufacturer and relocated from Issaquah to Port Townsend in 1988. Alongside wife Jean, he transformed a century-old house into the Baker House Bed & Breakfast, a popular destination for the next 19 years.
Herrington died after contracting pneumonia. The former mayor suffered a stroke in the 1990s, and battled dementia for years.
In addition to wife Jean Herrington, Herb Herrington is survived by sons David and Jerry, daughters Bonnie and Patty, and four grandchildren.
Born in Timpson, Texas, Herrington earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas and later worked in Boeing facilities throughout the Puget Sound region.
Herrington joined the city Planning Commission in 1958, just as the board started assembling the inaugural Comprehensive Plan, a long-term blueprint for growth — a still-distant issue. In 1967, voters elevated the Squak Mountain resident to the City Council.
Herrington ascended to the top spot at City Hall in 1974. Other leaders remember the former mayor as a fiscal conservative dedicated to courtesy and respect in government.
Throughout the stints as planning commissioner, councilman and mayor, Herrington balanced City Hall and Boeing duties.
What to know
A memorial service for former Issaquah Mayor Herb Herrington is at 1 p.m. April 28 at First Presbyterian Church, 1111 Franklin St., Port Townsend. The family suggests contributions to a charity of the donor’s choice.
“I don’t know how the man did it,” Jean Herrington said April 23. “I couldn’t go with that little sleep, but he did. Some of those meetings ran right until 12 or 12:30 in the morning.”
In 1974, Issaquah claimed only 4,700 residents — and remained rural enough for deer to poke around the Salmon Days Festival grounds.
“The town was transitioning from a working small town to becoming more of a bedroom community — and that was one of the concerns that people had,” current Mayor Ava Frisinger said. “Boeing engineers were moving in and changing the character of our community.”
Future plans for the Issaquah Skyport — a center for skydiving, gliding and hot air ballooning — also dominated discussion as Herrington’s tenure came to a close. Developers later turned the airstrip into the Pickering Place complex, despite objections from environmentalists.
“For the mayor, it was a very trying time,” Hinds said.
Former Mayor A.J. Culver credited Herrington for a transformation at City Hall. Herrington hired sharp candidates for critical roles, including City Administrator Leon Kos, the No. 2 official in municipal government for 33 years. City Clerk Linda Ruehle also served in the administration.
Culver served on the council alongside Herrington and, in 1981, succeeded Herrington as mayor.
“There was money in the bank,” Culver said April 23. “Linda Ruehle used to say, ‘Herb made us turn in our short pencils to get a new one, and he saved all of that money, and A.J. came in and spent it all.’”