Dave Ramsay, our current Kirkland City Manager is scheduled to retire spring of 2010. This interview was conducted during the Fall of 2009.
How long have you been City Manager for Kirkland?
“Well, actually since you mentioned it, today is actually my 12th year anniversary of being here in Kirkland. In fact I’ve been working for cities for the past 36 years, and 22 of them have been in the role of City Manager. I’ve had a great career in Public Service, and really, I’m quite proud of my career as I’m getting ready to retire next spring. Although I don’t really say I’m retiring, I’m really just entering into the next phase of my life.”
“I got into the business of ‘cities’ after spending 3 years in the Peace Corps working on community development. I loved the grass-roots work of the Peace Corps, and I am looking forward to getting back to doing more grass roots kinds of things when I leave here.”
So, most people who know something about you know that you are passionate about walking. Can you tell me a little about that passion and where it comes from?
“You’re right. I really am passionate about the benefits of walking. It’s really the best possible way to see the country, whether it’s here in our own town or on Vacation. You just notice the details of things, you see and hear more things than you’d ever see in a car.”
“Professionally, it’s the silver bullet of Public Policy that often gets overlooked. It really addresses so many of the many important issues – health issues, environmental issues, even public safety issues. It even addresses economic issues. Frankly a walk-able city means more traffic for retail. It means fewer cars on the road and less pollution. It means more eyes on the street – paying attention to what’s going on, and keeps our streets safer. It needs to be taken more seriously in communities.”
“50% of all the trips we take are 2 miles or less. 25% are 1 mile or less. What if we all walked these distances instead of driving? Think of all the positive benefits of this.”
“I often say I keep up with things here at the city by using my policy of ‘MBWA’. This is short of Management by Walking Around. Just seeing what’s going on, you know? I think it’s a great way to run a business, and it’s a great way to run the city.”
“I like to walk the town a lot. I run into people, see the city crews, parks and public works folks – just get a sense of what’s going on out there, and a feel for the community. “
“City Hall is actually an open concept building, and it encourages walking around. It’s open and welcoming, and it’s Main Street has all of the city central services. It’s great.”
Dave grew up in Magnolia – which he notes is a great place to walk. His parents were walkers – and he walked to school every day. While he was active in several other sports including basketball and tennis, walking is just easier to do when you start not being able to participate as much in other sports. He didn’t start long-distance walking until he was about 50, and now regularly does weeks-long walking tours of England and Wales for his vacations. Dave has a fantastic wife Carol, and 3 daughters in school in California, all of whom he calls “scholars.” No grandchildren yet but he’s hopeful. Dave will be leaving the City of Kirkland in March of 2010.
Julie Metteer is a guest commentator for Kirkland Views and the author of Connected in Kirkland, a blog about the people in Kirkland. You can read more of Julie's work by visiting www.ConnectedinKirkland.com