Working toward a more inclusive Redmond: Kritzer joins city council

Vanessa Kritzer ran for council hoping to make an impact at the local level.

Growing up, newly elected Redmond city Councilmember Vanessa Kritzer did a lot of conservation work as a kid and teen.

When she got to college, she studied political science at Vassar College in New York, realizing more work could be done to change systems through the government. While in school, she spent nearly a year in the Dominican Republic doing work that focused on empowering women and girls.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Kritzer joined the grassroots efforts during former President Barack Obama’s 2008 first presidential campaign. She also worked in Washington, D.C. with a Latin American group focused on United States-Colombia diplomacy work for human rights.

But as amazing as this work she did in international relations was, Kritzer said she realized the biggest impact she could make would be at the state and local level. In addition, she wanted to be involved in her own community.

So she moved back to the Pacific Northwest. She attended the University of Washington (UW) and received master’s degrees in public administration and business administration. She said she wanted to have the tools to understand how to make that difference at the local and state level.

And since the Eastside native — originally from the Bellevue side of the Bridle Trails neighborhood — moved to Redmond about two and a half years ago, she has become involved in the local community. She joined the city’s planning commission about two years ago, and last year she ran for — and was elected to — city council.

Kritzer holds council Position 5.

As a graduate student at UW, she was the student representative on the school’s board of regents — the only student who had a vote on things that would directly affect her peers and classmates such as tuition. Kritzer listened to and took students’ input and brought those voices into her work on the board.

She said this is similar to the type of work she does now as a councilmember — figuring out how public institutes can better serve people.

With light rail coming to Redmond and the Eastside, as well as an update to the comprehensive plan coming up, Kritzer said it is important for the city to do smart and strategic planning. She said light rail will bring a lot of development to Redmond and the city needs to find a way to connect people to that light rail. She added that Redmond is a powerful place to be as making a difference at the city level can influence the surrounding region.

Kritzer threw her name into the council race when her daughter was about 2 months old. She said she wants to make Redmond a great community to grow up in for her daughter. On the campaign trail, she connected with other mothers with young children and said that perspective allows her to look at things differently.

One of the “top of mind” issues for Kritzer is child care. Sharing her personal experience, Kritzer said she put her daughter on a wait list at a daycare five months before she was even born and they weren’t able to get into the daycare until her daughter was about 6 months old. And while Kritzer and her family were in a position in which they were able to wait, she knows there are other families who would not be able to wait.

As previously reported, Kritzer — alongside her fellow new councilmembers Jessica Forsythe and Varisha Khan — is a renter. With bringing this perspective to her role on council, Kritzer said the city needs to make sure there is starter housing for younger people who want to buy homes. That said, she noted that there are a lot of people in Redmond who rent — from single people to families.

“That’s part of the fabric of our community,” she said, adding that she thinks that will be useful to have that perspective on council.

Kritzer said the biggest area she hopes to make a difference in is affordability and making sure people of all walks of life can live in Redmond. A community is more vibrant when its teachers, firefighters and baristas also live where they work, she said.

Other areas Kritzer hopes to address include infrastructure that will make Redmond more walkable and bikeable. Doing that would also help with addressing climate change and traffic congestion in the community.

Kritzer also wants to make Redmond more accessible so people feel they can have a voice. She hopes to recruit a more diverse group of people to sit on the city’s various boards and commissions.

“We can foster a more inclusive environment,” she said.

In addition to getting more people from different backgrounds involved in the city, Kritzer said she wants to give voice to people who historically have not been represented at the table, adding that she would like to address inequality and injustice.

“That’s been kind of a driving force for me,” she said.

Outside of her work on council, Kritzer said she is a big board game geek, specifically strategic games. She is also an avid hiker, even doing a weekly hike for 43 weeks in a row — only stopping because she gave birth to her daughter. She also likes to spend time with her family who mostly live in the general area.