Joe Forkner launches campaign for Issaquah mayor

February 4, 2013

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 3 p.m. Feb. 4, 2013

Less than a week after rejoining the City Council, longtime community leader and seasoned Councilman Joe Forkner entered the race for mayor Monday.

Joe Forkner

Joe Forkner

The announcement set up a contest between Forkner and a colleague, Council President Fred Butler. The councilmen hope to lead the city once Mayor Ava Frisinger steps down in January 2014 after 16 years in the top job at City Hall.

Forkner, 59, worked for the city in the past and served on the council in recent stints — from 2000 to 2005, and to fill a vacancy from September 2006 to late 2007. The latest appointment, a 10-month stint approved Jan. 29 in a 4-2 decision, caps a busy period after Forkner led the citizen panel responsible for outlining redevelopment in the business district.

The blueprint, dubbed the Central Issaquah Plan, aims to reshape the areas along Interstate 90 from strip malls and parking lots to a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighborhood.

“I believe that my employment with the city of Issaquah, as well as the experience and knowledge that I have gained through my membership on numerous city boards and commissions, and the City Council, will allow me to lead Issaquah into the future while still maintaining its small-town charm and appeal,” Forkner said in a Feb. 4 election announcement.

The decision to run for mayor, he said, stems from years of service to the city, initially as a public works and maintenance staff member, and then through stretches on municipal boards, including the Development Commission and the Planning Policy Commission — traditional springboards to a council seat or the mayor’s office.

“I’m not specifically looking to be an administrator as much as I’m looking to be a working mayor,” Forkner said. “I’ve worked all my life, I’ve down an awful lot of work with cities, and I want to be on the ground. I don’t want to be in an office all day doing administration. I want to be out making sure that the things that are getting done are getting done right.”

The longtime Squak Mountain resident and wife Michele, code compliance officer for the city, live in a Squak Mountain neighborhood.

The learning curve in city government is almost nonexistent for Forkner. In the past year, he attended dozens of meetings related to the Central Issaquah Plan and every council budget session.

Forkner lauded Frisinger and other city officials for addressing residents’ concerns and needs.

“There are some complaints here and there, I know, but the majority of the people, I think are very satisfied with the way the city is working,” he said. “I think the current administration is doing a good job. There are some things, however, that I think could be improved.”

Frisinger and the council turned to Forkner in recent years to handle delicate or difficult assignments. In addition to the Central Issaquah Plan Task Force, Forkner played a key role as the municipal Cable TV Commission negotiated cable packages for city customers and led a task force to determine if Issaquah should participate in a proposed regional fire authority.

But the Central Issaquah Plan — and how to implement the changes in the years ahead — is perhaps the most important issue in the race for mayor.

“When you say high density and larger buildings, all of the sudden they think of Bellevue, which is far, far beyond what the Central Issaquah Plan is,” Forkner said. “So, I think the issue is trying to have people keep it in the right perspective of what it is trying to accomplish.”

Rules approved in the plan increased building height to 125 feet in the commercial core — up from 65 feet. The height limit for buildings in downtown Bellevue, by comparison, is 450 feet.

More candidates could enter the race before the May filing deadline. Election Day is Nov. 5, and if three or more candidates file for election, a primary election is triggered for Aug. 6. (Forkner cannot simultaneously run for mayor and the council.)

The mayor serves full-time and earns $95,112 per year in the position. The next mayor is due to take office in January 2014.

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