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King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson retires after 23 years of service,
Metropolitan King County Council Vice-Chair Julia Patterson announced today she will not seek a fourth term on the King County Council, ending 23 years of public service to South King County.
Patterson’s public service began in 1989 with her role in the incorporation effort of a new city in suburban south King County. Patterson at that time was a stay-at-home mom turned citizen activist due to the fact that King County was ignoring the needs of her community, including crime on Highway 99 and neighborhood impacts from the airport. When the city of SeaTac was incorporated in 1989, Patterson was elected as a founding member of its first City Council.
That spirit of activism drove Patterson to seek appointment to the State Legislature, where she represented the 33rd District in the State House and the State Senate for close to a decade. While serving in Olympia, Patterson championed legislation that resulted in election reform and lower class sizes in schools. She left the Legislature to join the King County Council in 2001 and was reelected in 2005 and 2009.
“I have enjoyed my work, but I believe the time is right to move on to a new chapter,” said Patterson.
During her twelve-year tenure on the King County Council, Councilmember Patterson served in every major leadership role, including Chair of the Council.
As the legislative branch’s Budget Chair, she shepherded the County forward with balanced budgets during the austerity of the Great Recession. During this time, the Council was forced to balance general fund budgets with a combined shortfall of over $59 million. Patterson passed two budgets that reflected her values by supporting programs for underserved communities and those in need.
Councilmember Patterson’s has taken regional leadership roles in transportation, public health, parks, human services, flooding, and equity and social justice.
Patterson chaired the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transportation Policy Board for six years, and currently serves as Vice-Chair of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors. She was instrumental in bringing light rail to Sea-Tac Airport and beyond, ensuring that millions of air travelers and south King County residents will have access to high-speed light rail. Patterson’s role in expanding transportation options for commuters outside the urban core was recognized when she was named the 2008 Elected Official of the Year by the Kent Chamber of Commerce.
During her five years as Chair of the Board of Health, she sponsored legislation that resulted in King County becoming one of the first jurisdictions in the country to ban the use of artificial trans-fats in local restaurants. She prime sponsored and successfully passed a Department of Health regulation requiring menu labeling in the chain restaurants of King County. Under Patterson’s direction, the Board of Health took a lead role in developing the “Planning for Healthy Communities Guidelines” to guide land use and transportation planning practices that will result in healthy communities.
For south King County, one of her most notable achievements is the successful decade-long development of the “Lakes to Sound Trail,” a 16.9-mile pedestrian and cycling trail. When complete, the trail will run from Renton through Tukwila, Burien, SeaTac, and eventually connect to the Des Moines Creek Trail. It will connect south King County with the regional trail system, offering new opportunities for residents to commute, recreate, and access major light rail stations and transit hubs.
As Chair of the King County Flood Control District, Patterson showed strong leadership after the United States Army Corps of Engineers announced that the federally-owned and operated Howard Hanson Dam was compromised, increasing the risk of flooding in the Green River Valley. With hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of dollars at risk, Patterson convened regional and state leaders to develop a successful strategy to fund repairs to the dam.
As a fierce supporter of equity and social justice issues, Patterson committed herself to standing up for struggling and working class families, as well as immigrants and refugees facing language and cultural barriers. The principle of equity has been a motivating factor throughout Councilmember Patterson’s career, driving her to ensure that all people, regardless of race, gender, or zip code have the opportunity for health and prosperity. As a result of this effort, she has committed energy and resources to youth violence prevention efforts in south King County.
Throughout her career, nothing has impacted Councilmember Patterson more than her awareness of how people struggle in her community. From her early years on the Council, she has led with her values and heart. She has tirelessly advocated for the homeless, the jobless, the hungry, seniors, and children. She recently was awarded the Community Hero Award from the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network.
Serving south King County has been Patterson’s greatest honor.
“Serving as a city, state, and county representative has been a great life experience and honor,” said Patterson. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And above all, I’ve enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people in our communities. I give thanks for their willingness to express their hopes and dreams; their beliefs and their fears. Most of all, I give thanks for their goodness and desire to make this a better world.”