Newly appointed Councilmember Mike Millman moved to Woodinville nearly 30 years ago for the renowned school district and proximity to work. He stayed because of the close relationships formed with people and small businesses in the area.
“I love the people. We've met some just fantastic people,” Millman said in an interview. “There's a great mix of different people from different socio-economic backgrounds, we have all kinds of tech workers and small business owners and we have the winery owners that are popping up all over the place.”
Millman, who retired as station captain for the Everett Fire Department in 2018, said he never expected himself to apply for city council. The opportunity was presented to him several months ago when former Mayor Elaine Cook reached out and asked him to consider filling her vacant seat, he said.
In the past, he recounted, there have been issues with the council not being as “collegial” as it could be. In February 2020, he briefly resigned from a city volunteer position, citing an “unfriendly atmosphere” within the commissions and council as the reason for leaving. However, he rejoined about one month later without much of an explanation.
Millman said he is now hoping to contribute to “good working relationships” with everyone on council regardless of political views and differing backgrounds.
Roughly a decade ago, Millman wrote a letter to council with concerns about traffic and growth in Woodinville. He said his family would avoid the downtown area around Northeast 175th Street and often found themselves going to Kirkland or Bothell to escape the poor traffic. Now, he noted, the growth in Woodinville in being managed better and he is excited to roll up his sleeves and hop on board.
“To keep the character of Woodinville, I think it's important that the city council manages growth properly,” he said. “And I'd like to help with that.”
Millman, who considers himself financially responsible, said his time as a small business owner in Everett from 1994 to 2001 will also be beneficial for helping people to navigate the regulations and unfunded mandates that are occasionally forced upon small businesses. He said the city needs to be “good stewards” of money belonging to the citizens of Woodinville.
Millman said his experience as a firefighter will help with managing any emergency preparedness responsibilities for the city. As station captain, he said, it was a very stressful job to manage an entire station at one of the busiest fire departments in the state.
After retirement, he was voted in to the Woodinville Fire & Rescue Board of Fire Commissioners as an opportunity to serve the community and share his knowledge as a former firefighter. In November, he was reelected to serve another six-year term.
There is no state legislation that directly prohibit serving in both capacities. However, under the 1957 state Supreme Court decision Kennett v. Levine, someone may not hold two “incompatible” public offices simultaneously.
There are no penalties under this doctrine unless a court determines that an individual is holding two public offices that are incompatible to one another.
It’s unclear if fire commissioner and city council member are considered incompatible, but the Municipal Research and Services Center on its website has suggested that perhaps they are not. The center did not provide comment on this particular instance. City officials did not respond to a request for comment about this law.
While serving on the fire commission, Millman dedicated significant time and effort to the proposed merger between Woodinville and Northshore fire districts. He said it’s particularly unusual, especially during a pandemic, for local government to be saving people money in taxes.
“We've been able to put something together that will improve service and lower taxes by ending redundancies of these smaller fire districts and fire departments,” he said.
During his first council meeting on Feb. 16, he recused himself from a vote related to the merger. According to the MRSC, if there is an issue with incompatibility it cannot be solved “by recusal on a case-by-case basis.”
In 2018, he joined the Woodinville Planning Commission with intentions to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of city development.
Millman grew up in Renton and moved into Woodinville in 1992. Five years later, he married Michelle Millman, a news anchor at KIRO 7 in Seattle. They have two sons. The eldest is studying pre-medicine at the University of Washington, while the other is learning about environmental science at the University of Oregon.
With the boys away at school, the empty-nesters just recently sold their first house in Woodinville and moved downtown to the Woodin Creek complex.
“I think Woodinville is a great town in that it's small enough where you can actually feel part of the community, but it's big enough that it gives you lots of opportunities for social activity or dining or wine tastings,” Millman said. “When we sold our house, we could have moved anywhere and we chose to stay in Woodinville, and I think that speaks highly of what we think of the city.”
Laura Guido contributed to reporting.