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Cole steps down after 24 years on City Council: Longtime politician was an advocate for financial stability

Richard Cole, 70, retired earlier this month after serving 24 years on City Council.  - Chad Coleman, Redmond Reporter
Richard Cole, 70, retired earlier this month after serving 24 years on City Council.
— image credit: Chad Coleman, Redmond Reporter

A fixture in Redmond politics for nearly three decades, Richard Cole admits he is a penny pincher and it’s a philosophy that has guided him during his 24-year tenure on the City Council.

“I spend the taxpayer money like the way I spend my money and I’m a pretty frugal guy,” said Cole, 70, who retired from Council earlier this month after serving six terms as a Council member and four years on the City of Redmond Planning Commission.

Cole’s stubbornness with spending and long-term thinking has helped pave the way for the city’s financial stability, according to Council member Pat Vache, who is now the longest tenured member on the council.

“He is very steadfast in maintaining adequate reserves to provide the stability we now have,” said Vache, who has served 14 years on the Council with Cole. “He is a very firm supporter in pushing forward on economic development and he played a key role in keeping our industrial zones industrial.”

Cole brought his financial expertise as a CPA for Boeing to the city, advocating for the city to switch to a two-year budget process, which frees up city staff for other work. In addition, he was a big supporter of the city’s Budgeting by Priorities (BP) process, which began in 2008. He also was a big pusher of the recently adopted Vision Blueprint, Redmond’s Capital Investment Strategy for 2013-2030. The document, approved at Cole’s final Council meeting Dec. 13, is the city’s first long-range capital investment plan that summarizes all identified capital needs and estimated revenue through 2030.

Besides being a financial steward of the community, Cole also supported development plans that did not infringe on residential neighborhoods — one the main reasons he joined the Council in the first place. He supports the city’s vision of developing the downtown and Overlake communities, while maintaining the neighborhood feel of other communities throughout the city.

“Richard has been an integral part of Redmond city government,” said Redmond Mayor John Marchione, who served on the Council with Cole before being elected mayor in 2007. “When I was a Council member, I appreciated Richard’s fairness and even-handedness. Richard is a great teacher. He taught me how to consider all opinions and balance them for the good of the city.”

Cole attended Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony of Marchione — who was re-elected in November — along with Council members Hank Margeson, David Carson and newcomer Tom Flynn. Council member Hank Myers will be sworn in next week.

“As mayor, I’m going to miss Richard’s institutional knowledge,” Marchione said. “Richard participated in many debates in the city’s history. He can keep a healthy perspective when issues heat up. His wisdom and experience will be missed.”

Cole, a self-admitted political junkie, said he still plans to be involved in city planning as a community member.

“Just because I’m no longer on the Council doesn’t mean I won’t be sharing my opinion with people,” said Cole, who is a member of Redmond’s Centennial celebration committee, which is planning several events as the city turns 100 years old next year.

Cole, who has four daughters and five grandchildren, said he will spend a lot of time reading various political newsletters and blogs in his new life outside the Council. He also plans to volunteer in Laura Rudaman’s 2012 campaign for Congress in the First District, which includes parts of Redmond.

“I’m still a political junkie,” said Cole, who was contested in five of his six races for City Council and also ran for a Senate seat in the 45th Legislative District in 1994, but lost. “I think I know as much as anybody about campaigning.”

ADDICTED TO POLITICS

Cole, who built a horse ranch on Education Hill in 1978, was appointed to the Planning Commission in 1983 by then-mayor Christine Himes. Cole decided in 1987 that he wanted to run for City Council. Ironically Himes, who lost her re-election bid to Doreen Marchione, the mother of Redmond’s current mayor, ran against Cole.

Cole thought he was going to lose, but he continued to work hard in his campaign and he won by just a few hundred votes.

From there, Cole entrenched himself into politics — on the local, regional and state levels.

“I became addicted,” he said with a smile. “I needed my fix every day for politics.”

Cole did something right as he was re-elected five times and was voted in as the council president for six years during his tenure, including the last two years. But he also knows he has his fair share of critics, but that’s part of politics, he said.

Himes, who is also on the Redmond Centennial planning committee, said Cole “did a good job and had a good following.”

“No matter what people do, you are not going to have everyone love you every step of the way,” Himes said of Cole. “He contributed a lot to Redmond.”

Mike Bailey, the city financial director, said Cole’s style leaned more toward being a steward of the community than a typical politician.

“He’s more sort of a steward of the public, of the community,” Bailey said. “His politics have been in the context of his stewardship.”

QUIET LEADER

Cole left the Council without a bang — and that’s the way he likes it.

A soft-spoken man with dry humor, Cole refused to have any sort of retirement party or celebration of his service on the City Council. He was presented with a plaque and during the Dec. 6 Council meeting, several current and former city officials shared their thoughts on Cole’s legacy. He also received a letter of recognition from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, one of Cole’s longtime friends and colleagues.

While Cole’s exit was quiet, he did have one request before he left: Approve the City of Redmond’s Vision Blueprint, a long-range strategic capital project plan. He got his wish as the Council voted 7-0 Dec. 13 to approve the 20-year plan, which Cole believes is vital to the strength and stability of this growing city.

It may have been his last vote, but Cole can be satisfied that he had a lasting impact on Redmond.

“It’s the end of an era,” Himes said.

 

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