Two-term County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles has decided not to seek reelection and will retire from public service at the end of 2023, she announced today in a letter to constituents and in a press release sent to the media.
“I’ve loved serving on the Council. I’ve absolutely loved it,” Kohl-Welles said in a statement and in her letter. “But at some point, it’s time to pass the torch for others to get involved. My entire time in public office has been immensely gratifying; however, there’s a time for everything and I feel really good about this being the time to move on to something new.”
Kohl-Welles, eighty, was a state legislator before succeeding Larry Phillips on the King County Council, representing the 4th District, a Seattle-area district.
A strong advocate for social justice, economic security, community resilience, and the arts, Kohl-Welles leaves behind a rich legacy as a lawmaker at multiple levels of government. She is known for her accessibility as an elected official, for a firm grasp of the issues, and for being an early adopter of worthy causes.
It came as no surprise last year, for instance, when Kohl-Welles enthusiastically backed our proposal to move King County’s county level positions to even-year elections. We knew we could count on her. She didn’t just vote for the proposal, either. She donated to the campaign to help pass it and came to the campaign’s house party last September. Councilmember Kohl-Welles walks her talk.
“I want to congratulate Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles for more than thirty years of service representing her community in the state House, Senate, and the King County Council. Since our time together in the Senate, I’ve enjoyed working alongside Jeanne,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“She has been a tireless advocate for working families, vulnerable people, arts and culture, workplace safety, and the people of King County. I am especially grateful for Jeanne’s leadership as Budget Chair in 2020 and 2021 as we worked to address the economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish her and her family all the best in this next chapter of their lives.”
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After serving you in elected office for 30 years, it is with mixed emotions that I share with you that I will not be running for re-election this fall and that I will be retiring at the end of this year.
Representing my constituents – first in the 36th Legislative District in the State House and Senate, and more recently in District Four on the King County Council – has been the privilege and honor of my lifetime, and I am incredibly grateful for the partnership, support, and trust that you all have offered me over the years.
This decision did not come to me lightly. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the public, those residing in my district but also more broadly throughout King County and the state.
It has been particularly important to me to work collaboratively in strengthening protections for the most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities, especially as income inequality, displacement, and homelessness have increased, as climate change has become increasingly threatening to us all, and as gun violence has become more frequent.
As long as I have held elective office, I have worked to provide access to affordable, equitable and quality housing, child care, education, health care and a safe and secure life for all.
And so important to me has been increasing access to arts, culture, heritage, and science programs and events, as well as an urgency in working on climate change and its effects on everything we all hold dear — our people, our environment, our natural resources, our society, and our planet!
I’ve also cherished working alongside so many talented, intelligent, and dedicated people and in balancing multiple, sometimes conflicting, interests in the pursuit of better public policy for all of us. I will miss the work mightily, but mostly the people and the communities in my district.
While I will enjoy finding more time for family and friends and for returning to my writing, I do know it will be challenging to shift gears after working so long with so many fantastic people and on so many challenging issues in the pursuit of the common good.
After 30 years, there are many lessons I’ve learned, but perhaps the most important is that there is always another side to the story. Sometimes, an issue is presented in a way that makes it appear the solution is simple. It rarely is.
Just as we are multi-faceted as individuals, the ways we experience and are impacted by social issues are, too.
That is why it’s been vital to me to bring as many voices into policymaking as possible – those with different backgrounds and experiences can provide a more complete picture of the issues we face. In fact, I have found it essential to listen to different voices and to craft solutions that take all angles into account.
Truly well thought out legislative advances serve the community and better stand the test of time. After working collaboratively, we’re more likely to reach equitable, effective and sustainable outcomes.
While I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I also look back fondly on all I have done and all those with whom I have worked alongside. I feel blessed by my career, fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community and a participant in crafting needed public policy and social change.
And we’ve accomplished a lot over the past seven years (and in the previous 23 in the Legislature), so check out an abbreviated list of Council accomplishments below.
But, with nearly a year to go, my work is not done yet and I am eager to finish strong! So, stick around for more informative e‑news editions and other communications from my office this year, and expect to see some exciting legislation and other projects before I leave at the end of December. As always, please reach out to me or my exemplary staff with any of your questions, concerns, or ideas.
Lastly, politics is – in every sense of the term – a public endeavor, and this is how I’ve approached it my whole career.
Not only could my work not have existed without that amazing staff I just mentioned, it definitely could not have existed without the tireless work of countless others, including those working in advocacy groups and nonprofits, journalists, community organizers, community-based organizations, union members, policy analysts, academics, business owners, concerned citizens, and yes, lobbyists.
Our form of democracy is messy, sometimes chaotic, and ultimately beautiful. It’s best when it’s open, visible, and built on relationships and dialogue. Perhaps it’s the sociologist in me that leads me to love the public aspects of the work as much as I do, but I think we can all agree that at the core of our governance experiment is a dynamic, colorful, beating heart. Thank you all for accompanying me on this journey.
The Councilmember’s retirement press release also fittingly includes tributes from all eight of her Council colleagues, Democratic and Republican alike.
Fellow Councilmember Joe McDermott has also announced his retirement.
The other two councilmembers up this year, Claudia Balducci and Girmay Zahilay, are seeking reelection. They will be running for three-year terms, owing to the passage of King County Charter Amendment 1, which they partnered with us to bring to fruition. Charter Amendment 1 received a 69% yes vote from the voters.
Our congratulations and thanks to Councilmember Kohl-Welles. We deeply appreciate her service and wish her the best as she completes her time in office.