December 10, 2001
'You are what you are when you act'
A tribute to County Councilwoman Louise Miller
by Jeanette Knutson
Several hundred friends, colleagues and constituents attended a soiree, replete with hors d'oeuvres, wine, song and mingling, held at Woodinville's Chateau Ste. Michelle on Dec. 5 - all to pay tribute to the retiring Metropolitan King County Council Member Louise Miller. For eight years Miller represented King County Council District 3, covering, in part, Woodinville, Duvall, Carnation and parts of Redmond. She also spent 11 years in the Legislature and seven years on the Woodinville Water District board.
In Grand March fashion, Louise was escorted into the room while her husband's band, "Stafford's Strings," played the catchy tune Maurice Chevalier once made famous: "Louise." And as the band played, the crowd sang in unison, "Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise. Birds in the trees twitter Louise. Each little rose tells me it knows, I love you ..."
Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel acted as master of ceremonies and many in attendance rose to recount stories of Miller's good works. Accolades and presents were heaped upon Miller and a slide show projected photos of Louise as a young girl, Louise at various political functions and Louise amongst her constituents.
King County Executive Ron Sims described Miller as willful, opinionated, an extraordinary public official, refreshing, ... someone you didn't dare disagree with. He said she had a sense of what could be and what should be in public office. "With her talent, ethics and openness, the county is a much better place," he said, adding that she raised the bar on how things should be done in government. "I love change," said Sims, "until it affects me. I'll really miss her."
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert thanked Miller for her support of law enforcement.
Gov. Gary Locke was unable to attend but had a letter read on his behalf. In response to a call from the Woodinville Weekly, Locke said that he and Louise came into the state Legislature at the same time, in 1982. And they both left at the same time, he to become county executive and she to become a county council member. Gov. Locke considers Louise a close friend, even though they are from opposite parties. He considers her a good legislator, very pragmatic. She could always work with both parties, he said. And "Whenever she came down (to Olympia), he said, "she got right in (to see me)."
Secretary of State Sam Reed told of how in 1983 when Miller first went to Olympia, the women in the Legislature formed a so-called "sewing circle," a women's coalition, really, lead by Miller and meant to foster ties between women in government. Members of the "sewing" group mentored one another and rose quickly, said Reed. They eventually went after the good ol' boys who called them Shirley 1, Shirley 2, Shirley 3, (Louise was Shirley 3), Shirley 4. It seems some legislators had trouble with all the women's names, but they could remember a woman named "Shirley." So they called all the women "Shirley," Shirley 1, 2, etc.
State Sen. Jeanine Long said there were only 20 women in the Legislature when Louise came in. Today, she said, Washington has more women legislators than any other state.
Retired King County Ombudsman, Rella Foley, recalled how she and Louise went from being mothers with kids in Cottage Lake School to being concerned citizens, fighting against a proposed sewage pool that was to drain into Bear Creek. Because of their efforts in the late 60s, said Foley, they got King County to enact the Bear Creek Community Plan.
One after another, colleagues and constituents alike praised Miller for her accomplishments. Frankly, there is not enough room in our publication to print it all. Representatives from the Horse Trails Council, from the arts, from the farming community, from parks and open space, from schools, as well as environmentalists, all had tributes for Louise Miller. The statements may have been different, but the underlying theme was the same. She walked the talk. If she said she was going to do something, she did it. If she signed up for something, she always attended, never reneged. She was cognizant of her community and participated. She showed up.
To the outpouring of respect and affection, Miller replied, "I never had a boring day in 24 years. Thank you for allowing me to do it."
Miller then introduced her daughter Rebecca, grandsons Kyle and Devon, and her husband Stafford. "If you don't have family support, you just can't do it," she said.
Miller also said, "I love politicians. Public servants care about people. They work 80-hour weeks and people don't appreciate what they do."
Obviously, not all of Miller's District 3 constituents attended her celebration at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Plenty, however, wanted to thank her personally for all her efforts on their behalf. Below, then, are comments from locals and community members at large who saw her in action and liked what they saw:
"Louise Miller's support of the Farmland Preservation Program helped ensure that farms like ours will be here for the benefit of future generations. We've always found her to be well-informed, willing to listen, and dedicated to doing what's best for her district," said Roger Calhoon, general manager FARM LLC, Woodinville.
"Louise Miller has been extremely important to my efforts to protect the local environment," said Heather Poe, member of the citizen group Water Tenders. "When some neighbors set up a shooting range in their yard, Louise helped me establish a 'no-shooting' zone around my home and the nearby junior high school. Louise helped secure funding for some of the initiatives of the Water Tenders environmental group, such as (funds for) replanting some of Bear Creek and the Tolt pipeline, and a study of freshwater mussels in Bear Creek. Her contributions to the environmental health of the region will be felt for a long time."
Wendy Walsh, volunteer and longtime resident of the Bear Creek area, told a story of how a developer in the late 60s wanted to build townhouses in what is now the Lake of the Woods area. The lake back then, she said, was called "Holiday Lake." This developer proposed sewage from the development be channeled to a "sewer lagoon," similar to one that exists in Marysville today. This sewer lagoon was to have drained into Bear Creek near the southern tip of Mink Road, said Walsh. Apparently a huge battle ensued, backed by all the major developers in the West. But the Bear Creek Valley united to fight the developers and went down to the county and screamed and yelled ... and lost. But they won on appeal, said Walsh, and Louise Miller (in one of her early environmental endeavors) and many other valley residents contributed to the victory. Had they not won, said Walsh, we wouldn't have salmon in Bear Creek today.
Walsh also wrote a tribute of her own to Miller that was printed in the Water Tenders' fall newsletter, a part of which I quote, "Throughout her political journey, Louise has kept her focus on keeping Washington green and saving salmon streams, and keeping development from destroying the places we love. It has not been an easy battle for Louise. Often she broke party ranks and voted her conscience.
"Louise is a good example of someone who has found the spirit and political will to find a balance between inevitable growth demands and environmental protection. She was a strong voice for growth management, open space, ... natural resources acquisition and parks. Cottage Lake Park and all of Bear Creek are better places because of her ...."
Said Walsh, Miller was instrumental in obtaining funding for Waterways 2000, a program that protected natural resource property along state rivers and streams. "She also helped in acquiring soccer fields and in protecting farmlands in the Sammamish Valley. She stood firm and took a lot of flack. She's done a fabulous job, really has," said Walsh.
Nancy Stafford, neighbor and president of Upper Bear Creek Community Council, said, "I've known Louise as a resident of the Cottage Lake area for some years; she is no stranger to the neighborhood. She has served all of King County so well. This northeast end of King County has had real benefit from her service on the King County Council. She responded positively and quickly to the local request that the pool be retained for the children at Cottage Lake Park when the Parks Department thought that space would make a good parking lot. She has been a staunch supporter of parks, natural areas, streams and the environment, all subjects that help make up the unique persona of our Upper Bear Creek area. She's been more accessible than any public figure I've ever known, having a satellite office right in the neighborhood where anyone wanting to see her can do so without running the gauntlet into downtown Seattle. Face it; she's spoiled us!
"We know she's earned her retirement and wish her well. That won't prevent her constituency from missing her voice on the council. Speaking of voices, did you know that she has a lovely singing voice and has often lead the singing of Christmas carols at the Woodinville Library holiday celebration?"
At first Al Dams, spokesperson for King County Parks, pretended he'd never heard of Louise Miller.
"Louise Miller? Who's she?" said Dams.
Then he relented. "Louise has been an absolutely wonderful advocate for parks. There is no question that Cottage Lake Park would be what it is today without Louise. That's the reason they named the pavilion after her." (Dams was referring to the fact that last week the county council designated the official name of the administration/pool house at Cottage Lake Park as the Louise Miller Pavilion. Cottage Lake, formerly a private resort, was acquired by the county in 1989. In partnership with the community, Miller helped shape the vision for the park to protect its natural features and provide recreational amenities for the community.)
"Louise has always supported us," said Dams. "She comes out, works the information booth at the Heritage Festival, sitting alongside Parks staffers. She's done all kinds of great stuff. She understands the benefits of parks and recreation and clearly supports the service."
Director of the Woodinville Farmers Market, Grant Davidson, said, "Louise Miller has been a tremendous supporter of farmers markets. Over the past three years she's given money (from her 'special programs') fund to the market.
"She's also been instrumental in helping us find a permanent location," said Davidson. In fact, he said, the market has a new location lined up because of her; it just hasn't been finalized yet.
"She really believes in preserving farmland, in regional farmers markets open several days a week. She's wholly in support of that.
"Louise has done an excellent job on the King County Council and in the state Legislature before that. She will be missed extremely."
Louise Miller has always been a strong supporter of education," said Kathleen Drew, community and government relations director for the University of Washington, Bothell. "In the state Legislature, Louise was one of the earliest supporters of branch campuses. Her leadership and vision helped us all create the higher education opportunities we now enjoy."
Karen Bates, superintendent of the Lake Washington School District, said, "Louise has been a great supporter of the arts and the environment and we've certainly seen her efforts with these areas in our district. She has helped with a wonderful arts education grant that is currently underway which helps develop a K-12 arts curriculum, and that is in partnership with King County.
"She's also helped a great deal at Wilder Elementary with a watershed project when the school was working on some environmental issues around watersheds.
"She's also done a great deal concerning student athletics, including the Field of Dreams project which put into place more athletic fields for soccer and baseball and other sports at some of our (elementary) schools like (Emily) Dickinson and (Margaret) Mead, where the county and the district partnered to create these playfields.
"She really has been a wonderful supporter, particularly in those areas of arts, the environment and athletics."
Kate Labiak, band and orchestra director at Leota Junior High, said that her school benefited tremendously from a very important King County Arts Commission grant that Louise Miller supported. The grant, entitled the Endangered Instruments Grant, was the brainchild of longtime educator, longtime conductor of the Seattle Youth Symphony, Walter Cole. Cole recognized the need for more horns, bassoons and string bass players in school bands and orchestras. The idea was to hire people from the Pacific Northwest Ballet orchestra and the Seattle Symphony and have them come into the schools to interest students already playing instruments in less-popular instruments like French horn or bassoon. In essence the experts would be saying, "Look how cool the bassoon is."
"It really benefited the program at Leota because it added a dimension to the ensembles," said Labiak. "Students had a chance to see what it was like in the real orchestral world. It offered an authentic musical experience for those who switched instruments and for those who didn't.
"This year I've had a bassoonist selected to be in the Washington All State Band, last year as well. This band is only open to high school students, and to have a junior high student included is a huge honor," said Labiak.
Gretchen Garth, longtime affiliate of Teen Northshore, said, "Louise cares about kids. She has directed funds that have helped the Woodinville area Teen Northshore program thrive."
Friends of Youth Communications Director Joan McBride said, "Louise Miller leaves an incredibly rich and wonderful legacy. Her concern for the youth of our local communities has been consistent over the decade. She has been a steadfast supporter of youth and youth services."
"We had a wonderful good-bye tea (last week) for Louise," said Marianne LoGerfo, Director of Northshore Senior Center in Bothell. "Louise was her usual cute, charming, insightful self. She is one of the foremost advocates - not only in the area but in the state - for older adults and was integral to the creation of the current senior center and the new adult day center. It's been a pleasure to deal with someone who is so honest and straightforward and who cares about people. She is very, very important to a lot of people and has been for a long time."
Said Lisa Yeager, director of the Sno Valley Senior Center in Carnation, "Louise Miller had a powerful impact on our senior center, in her commitment to seniors, in her assistance in helping pay off our mortgage. She understands the need for adult day services and for providing respite for caregivers. We will miss her and wish her the best. She's left a wonderful legacy of service behind."
"Louise and I go back to the 70s," said Doreen Marchione, executive director of HopeLink, "when she was on the Woodinville Water District board and I was on the Redmond City Council. Many people credit Louise with a lot of different things, but she was always a great supporter of human services. She cared about people and their basic needs like food, shelter, transportation, childcare. And she cared about all parts of her district, too. She didn't neglect the small out-of-the-way places. She even went to Skykomish on behalf of HopeLink. You know, lots of people act like this is good bye, like she's going somewhere; but I expect Louise to be around helping people."
Carolyn Butler of the Duvall Arts Commission said, " Throughout her political career, Louise Miller has been a strong advocate of the arts for the citizens of King County. As a musician and music educator, Louise understands the essential nature of the arts in the lives of her constituents. With her support, there are several new arts organizations serving Snoqualmie Valley, including the Duvall Arts Commission, the Falls City Arts Council and the Snoqualmie Arts Association. Audiences are enjoying music, dance and theater presentations, arts education programs are flourishing, and Valley cities are commissioning public art. Louise voted to keep arts funding in the budget each year, insuring access to the arts for everyone. We will miss Louise as our King County representative, and we wish her a full and happy retirement."
"It's funny," said Jim Kelly of the King County Office of Cultural Arts. "We in the arts always thought of Louise as 'ours.' We assumed her pet issue was the arts. Little did we know that the people in Parks thought her pet issue was parks and open space. And the environmentalists thought her pet issue was natural resources. My God, we realized, Louise wasn't just about arts. All of us counted on Louise. And we all had something in common: We all had to do with the quality of life. For us, Louise wasn't so much about law, safety or justice. She was about places to go to listen to music, places to see a performance, places of education, places to recreate. She was about green open spaces.
"She understands the role the arts play in education and quality of life," Kelly said. "She supported the arts as a public policy position. She understands intrinsically how the arts contribute to community life. We feel fortunate to have had her on the council for so long. What a tremendous legacy!"
Tom Hearne, manager of King County Emergency Medical Services, said "Louise Miller has always been supportive of EMS and the Medic One program. She played an important role on the second Task Force we formed and was really instrumental in making recommendations that are part of the EMS levy that just passed with almost an 81 percent approval. In fact, she helped create a legacy in Medic One that will live on for the next six years, if not longer."
Woodinville Water District Commissioner Gwenn Maxfield, said, " Louise was one of the first Water District commissioners in Woodinville. She understood the importance of water planning and policy, both at the state Legislature and county council levels. She was very helpful in promoting good policy. Her effectiveness and expertise will be missed."
Don Brocha of the Woodinville City Council said, "Louise will always be one of the best county council members I have ever worked with. She put in a lot of time; she attended a lot of activities. Early on, she was involved in numerous ad hoc committees that sprung up in Woodinville. On the council, she always kept Woodinville in mind; she always did right by us.
"The city is presenting Louise with an engraved cake server. She came to Woodinville's birthday celebration every year on April 1 and helped serve our giant birthday cake.
"She really cares about the people she represents. She always does the best that she can. She might be outspoken. She certainly lets you know how she feels, but she was in there to serve. For her, it was all about the people she was representing."
Doreen Wise, city of Duvall administrator, said, "Council member Miller has been a good friend to Duvall. She was very helpful working with Duvall and King County on the 124th Street Bridge replacement. She was instrumental in obtaining a van for the use of the Lower Valley, and has been very supportive of the new Youth Center."
Mayor-elect of Duvall Becky Nixon thanked Miller for her support of Duvall parks, seniors and the arts.
"She has a great sense of humor. She cared about her constituents and she remembered your name. I'll always be grateful for her help on my campaign," said Nixon
Bob Patterson, Mayor of Carnation, said, "She was always here for us, for the city of Carnation. We never hesitated to go to her because she was sympathetic, would listen and always did what she could for us. We knew we were well represented.
"Right now the city is in the beginning of getting a sewer system. In the past, we understood there was no way King County could help us; but this year we went before the council and learned they want to build and operate the facility here."
Patterson also noted Miller's support of Eastside Habitat for Humanity and Lake Washington Technical College. "Her support is throughout the community, to everybody, in every direction. And politics never entered into it, never was a factor," said Patterson.
King County Council Member-elect Kathy Lambert said, "I would like to thank Louise for advising me that moving from being a teacher to being a legislator was a logical progression. Both teachers and legislators deal with serving people, helping people, analyzing problems and finding solutions. She also told me not to worry about going to law school right away. And I'm very appreciative of not having to study for the Bar (Association exam) right now. I can do that when I'm 90.
"Louise has been a leader for me. She went to the state Legislature and then moved to the county council and I followed that pattern. I thank her for setting the path."
"Louise Miller is one of a kind," said Dianne Campbell, personal friend and member of the board of trustees of Cascadia Community College. "The tributes and accolades that are coming to her from every segment of the greater community are more than deserved. Louise has set a new standard for what it means to 'serve the public.' If you measure success by achievements, Louise is off the normal scale. Throughout her career she has continuously exhibited a rare combination of intelligence, ethics, political savvy, guts and passion to make her community, her county, her state and this great nation a better place for people. All of our lives have been touched by her dedication to get it right. We see and will continue to see evidence of her influence everywhere - from restored creeks and streams with returning salmon, soccer fields on agriculture land, to Evergreen Hospice and the successful University of Washington, Bothell and Cascadia Community College collocated campus. Louise Miller is a rare community asset and one we will turn to again and again for assistance and guidance as our greater community continues to pursue its unique, dynamic destiny. Louise Miller has combined her roles as wife, mother, teacher, mentor, cheerleader and friend to redefine Community Leader. Louise, we thank you, we celebrate you, and wish you and your family the very best."