By John William Howard
Retiring Kirkland councilor Doreen Marchione typically chooses to focus on the future, rather than the past.
And to her credit, Marchione has spent decades helping underprivileged Eastsiders forget about the past and look to a brighter future thanks to tireless work as a housing advocate. Marchione says she even has trouble remembering specific stories, and what with the thousands of stories she’s touched as a public servant — elected or otherwise — it’s not much of a surprise.
One story, though, stood out.
During Marchione’s 15-year stint as the head of Hopelink, the Redmond-based nonprofit fighting to free the Eastside community of poverty, she came across a young mother. She followed the woman’s success story as she worked her way through Lake Washington Institute of Technology and earned a good job.
Midway through recounting the woman’s journey, Marchione’s voice broke.
“I feel it goes on to change — and it does change — the next generation,” Marchione said. “The children benefit more when families are helped. It’s interesting: I used to give a talk for United Way, and there was always somebody in the audience who would say, ‘Hopelink helped me.’ It means a lot.”
Under Marchione, who joined Hopelink in 1992 after eight years as the Mayor of Redmond, the organization grew from a small local nonprofit to a force in the greater Eastside area. According to a release from the City of Kirkland announcing Marchione’s plans to retire, Hopelink expanded to serve 50,000 residents — a bump of more than 165 percent — by the time Marchione left in 2007.
Even before her election to the Kirkland City Council in 2009, Marchione played a major role in Eastside housing issues. She served with the King County Housing Authority, and on the boards of United Way of King County and helped establish a large transitional housing project and shelter in Redmond in 2004.
Currently she sits on the city’s housing committee, and has spent the last seven years supporting local programs which aim to tackle housing issues. She was a proponent of Attain Housing, and helped spearhead the effort behind an Imagine Housing project near the South Kirkland Park and Ride.
In the city’s release, Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen praised Marchione’s accomplishments and commitment to the housing crisis.
“The time and energy Councilmember Marchione has invested in strengthening Kirkland and the region is legendary,” Walen said.
A board member and past president of Kirkland Performance Center, Marchione said she has enjoyed watching KPC grow and become a stable gathering place for the community.
Marchione has also spent time volunteering in other ways — food banks, for instance. She was raised by a single mother who encouraged her to take part in community service, and was involved in service projects while studying at Seattle University.
“I just see these families being able to become self-sufficient,” She said. “That really means a lot.”
Public service runs in the family. Marchione’s son, John, is currently in his third term as the Mayor of Redmond, first elected in 2007.
Marchione said in her time serving both Redmond and Kirkland, she met plenty of elected officials who had their communities best interest at heart. She also implored Kirklanders to get involved in local politics.
“People need to pay attention to the community, and what’s happening, and don’t wait until the last minute,” Marchione said. “Follow the issues; keep up with things. … Pay attention and attend community gatherings when they’re looking for input if you want your voice to be heard. The council is always looking; take advantage.”
For someone who has been so hands-on over the last several decades, it seems the reality of retirement hasn’t fully set in. Marchione said she isn’t quite sure what she’ll do once her term ends in December, but she hopes to keep an eye on council meetings from the comfort of her own home.