A holistic approach to government: Forsythe joins Redmond City Council

The new councilmember hopes to address issues relating to the environment, infrastructure and representing all of Redmond.

Volunteering and serving her community have been part of Jessica Forsythe’s life since before she knew what those words meant.

When Forsythe was growing up, her baba, or grandmother, was involved in the American Legion Auxiliary and Forsythe helped her collect donations for veterans. Her father was involved the American Legion as well as Special Olympics. And once she became an adult, Forsythe volunteered in the communities where she has lived.

She recently decided it was time to step up and do more.

So she ran for Redmond City Council and was elected to Pos. 3 in November 2019. Forsythe was sworn into office last month.

“Politics has always interested me,” she said.

While she has not sat on any of the city’s boards or commissions, prior to her campaign, Forsythe was on the executive board and served as treasurer for the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County.

The Brimfield, Ohio, native has been living in Redmond for about half a dozen years — having previously lived in Los Angeles and Southern California as well as New Zealand.

Running for her local city council has been something Forsythe has thought about often over the years, but it wasn’t until she participated in a program with Emerge, a nonprofit that trains women to run for office, that she took that leap. Forsythe said the organization’s five-month, 80-hour training program she went through last year gave her the confidence to throw her name into the race.

Emerge also broke down the scariness of running for office. In addition, participants had the opportunity to meet with state legislators.

“They’re just a real person,” Forsythe said about the lawmakers.

This made things seem more real and attainable, she said.

Prior to this, Forsythe also wondered what she would bring to the table if she held public office. She wasn’t a lawyer, but the Emerge training showed her that running a campaign takes a range of talents.

Forsythe, who studied visual communication design at Kent State University in Ohio and now owns Little Hinka Design in Redmond, said in her 15-year design career, her work has involved defining problems and looking for ways to solve them. Holding office is similar in that it requires a person to distill things and ask if a proposed solution will work for people, she said. Forsythe said she has a holistic approach when it comes to problem solving and that is what she is bringing to council.

Forsythe said people feel their voice has not been heard by the city and council, so as a councilmember, she wants to be as transparent as possible and make sure to keep the community at the core of her decisions. Forsythe also hopes to represent people who feel they do not have a voice, but also may not have a vote because they are not citizens. She wants to give people new to Redmond the best quality of life and make them feel welcome and safe in the community.

Another area she feels is important is the environment. She said these issues are key, especially with all that is happening in the world, and said we don’t have a lot of time to wait to address them. Forsythe discussed a plastic bag ban in Redmond on the campaign trail and hopes it will pass at the state level. If not, she personally hopes Redmond and the council will do something at the city level.

She also touched on infrastructure as another key issue to address, especially after the closing of the Redmond Senior Center building.

“That’s a huge detrimental loss to our seniors,” Forsythe said. “They want their own space and they deserve their own space.”

She said the city needs to look at its other buildings to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen elsewhere.

At 37 years old, Forsythe — along with her fellow new councilmembers Varisha Khan and Vanessa Kritzer, who are 24 and 33, respectively — brings a younger perspective to council. The three women also bring their perspectives as renters to the table.

Forsythe said the latter highlights the perspective of people who are getting priced out of being able to afford to live in Redmond. There is a middle ground of affordability that needs to be addressed, she said. The city is missing townhomes and entry-level homes for residents. Forsythe, who acknowledged that she does not have the answers, added that housing affordability in also on the council’s legislative agenda.

While there is a lot that Forsythe hopes to get done while she is on the council, she is also realistic and knows she can only accomplish so much during a four-year term.

Outside of council and work, Forsythe enjoys being outdoors, often going on hikes with her husband. She is a cyclist, which motivates her to improve safety for bicyclists, and she is also runner. Forsythe has signed up for a number of upcoming races (5Ks and 8Ks) in Redmond, Kirkland and Seattle.