Former Councilwoman Maureen McCarry dies
July 5, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 11:45 a.m. July 5, 2012
Maureen McCarry, a former councilwoman and longtime community leader, died early Wednesday after a battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, 18 months after resigning from the City Council.
McCarry served on the council amid a period of expansion in Issaquah, as council members addressed long-term issues related to transportation, economic development and the environment — a hallmark for McCarry.
In separate stints on the council in the 1990s and 2000s, she made the environment a priority.
The commitment earned McCarry the Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community early last year. The top environmental honor in the city recognized McCarry for tireless efforts to forge agreements outlining construction in the Issaquah Highlands and Talus, preserve forested Park Pointe on Tiger Mountain and strengthen tree-protection rules.
The prize included $500 — money from a long-term endowment established as part of Kees’ estate. McCarry donated the money to the Issaquah Environmental Council to plant trees on Park Pointe near Issaquah High School.
The act encapsulated McCarry’s dedication to Issaquah and the environment.
City Council President Tola Marts, a close friend and a Squak Mountain neighbor of McCarry, confirmed the death Thursday.
“It was always about the issues for Maureen and it was always about making the city better,” Marts said. “People say that, and it’s a platitude, but it really was true with Maureen.”
Marts said McCarry left another important, intangible legacy.
“The current civility that you see on the council, I think has a lot to do with Maureen,” he said. “Though she was a passionate person, she never made it personal.”
McCarry maintained the same cordial sense of professionalism even amid the rough and tumble of council campaigns.
“Honestly, I never heard her say a mean word about anybody,” Marts said. “It would have been very easy to get into an us-versus-them sort of mentality, but she never did.”
Mayor Ava Frisinger lauded McCarry for lasting contributions to municipal policy and the Issaquah landscape.
“She was very, very good at translating policy direction and council perspectives to to the development community,” Frisinger said Thursday.
The mayor also remembered McCarry for light-hearted moments and family stories.
“There was a very good-natured and gentle humor that Maureen had,” Frisinger said.
On the council and the Community Advisory Committee for Swedish/Issaquah, McCarry, a former Harborview Medical Center executive, played a key role in landing a hospital for the city.
“Because of her work at Harborview, I think that she was able to bring some perspective to that whole hospital planning process that no one else could have done, certainly no one else in this community,” Frisinger said.
McCarry later received effusive praise for the project at the July 2011 opening reception for Swedish/Issaquah.
“She made lasting contributions to our community,” Councilwoman Stacy Goodman said Thursday. “It’s very sad that she’s gone.”
Goodman succeeded McCarry on the council, initially as a council appointee. Goodman later ran uncontested to complete the remaining years of McCarry’s term.
Before stepping down from the council, McCarry led the effort to acquire and preserve 40 acres atop Squak Mountain for wildlife habitat and trail access to nearby Squak Mountain State Park.
The tract is called McCarry Woods — another honor from the city. The land is adjacent to McCarry’s neighborhood.
The city acquired the forestland in August 2007 through the Cougar-Squak Mountains Wildlife Corridor project. The mayor appointed a citizen committee in July 2011 to select a name for the property, and council members OK’d the McCarry Woods choice the next month.
In November, residents in McCarry’s neighborhood, Forest Rim, organized a block party for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Friends remember McCarry as a dedicated mother to Michaela, 14, and wife to Tom Knollmann.
Once ALS stole McCarry’s ability to speak, Knollmann acted as a clear voice for the former councilwoman. In a poignant speech to attendees at the McCarry Woods dedication, Knollmann thanked community members for rallying to assist the family.
“Your many acts of kindness — many acts that you don’t even realize, some just in the silence of your prayers or helping us around the house — have made the journey that we’re going through easier, and you’ve made this burden that we’ve endured lighter,” he said then. “We’ll never be able to thank you, and we truly appreciate how you have chosen to accompany us on this travel.”
McCarry received the ALS diagnosis in October 2010. The neurodegenerative disease made speaking difficult, but McCarry remained engaged in city affairs from the resignation until recent months.
“Email became her medium,” Marts said.
In December 2010, on the night McCarry left the council, colleagues offered emotional tributes. In a last act as a councilwoman, before a tearful sendoff, she seconded a motion to adopt a Park Pointe agreement.
The action culminated a long career in public service for McCarry.
Not long after she settled in Issaquah in 1993, she joined the Planning Policy Commission, a frequent springboard to higher office.
Then, after Frisinger transitioned from councilwoman to mayor in 1999, council members selected McCarry to fill the open spot on the council. The council selected McCarry from a pool of 10 candidates to fill the seat, and she served until 2000.
McCarry opted not to run for election then, but in 2005 she eked out a 21-vote victory to earn a complete council term.
Observers once considered McCarry as a mayoral prospect, perhaps in 2009 or 2013, but in 2009, she opted to run for another council term instead.