Mayor Ava Frisinger reflects on accomplishments
February 5, 2013
By Warren Kagarise
Mayor Ava Frisinger, a steady leader amid more than a decade of transformation, plans to retire after guiding Issaquah through a transition from small town to a boomtown in 16 years at City Hall.
The announcement did not come as a surprise to other elected leaders or residents active in municipal government. Frisinger said in early 2009 she did not intend to run for a fifth term as mayor in 2013.
But the decision to include the announcement in a farewell State of the City address Feb. 4 enabled Frisinger to cast the annual speech as valedictory on accomplishments from the last decade and a half.
The mayor glanced back to 1998 — before officials opened a modern City Hall along East Sunset Way and as initial residents settled into the Issaquah Highlands, a then-novel urban village carved into the hillside above Interstate 90.
Issaquah claimed about 10,500 people then, before a construction boom and annexations caused the city to grow to more than 31,000 residents nowadays.
“I’m sure many of us remember the highlands project during its initial years,” Frisinger said in the address. “Issaquah embraced smart-growth philosophies that enabled us to accommodate new development, as well as protect our environment and existing neighborhoods.”
The mayor said common threads run through the decisions made across the decades.
“The thing that hasn’t changed has been a very strong emphasis in Issaquah that our governmental actions reflect what we hear as the community’s values,” she said in a separate interview. “I think the city really listens.”
The city is on the cusp of another transformation, as leaders prepare to implement the Central Issaquah Plan, a 30-year redevelopment blueprint for the business district.
“While we don’t know all the answers, I’m confident 30 years from now Issaquah will be celebrating similar successes,” she said in the address. “We have the dedicated citizens, businesses, volunteers and public servants to address any challenges along the way.”
Frisinger, a councilwoman before ascending to the mayor’s office in 1998, said she plans to travel and spend more time with grandchildren after retiring. The race to succeed Frisinger so far includes councilmen Fred Butler and Joe Forkner.
The focus in Frisinger’s last months in office turns to legacy.
The mayor said in a separate interview that she hopes residents believe “that I helped the community grow in a holistic and sustainable way that reflected a very strong love of the environment, of the people and of the place.”