IF YOU haven’t met Kirkland Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Kari Page at one of the dozens of meetings she facilitates every year, you’ve probably seen her around town walking her Jack Russell Terrier, training for triathlons, or rowing on Lake Washington. On and off the job, Kari gets around.
For the past 13 years, Kari has been the city’s liaison with neighborhoods, helping them find meeting facilities and speakers, solve problems, and get information. She coordinates the matching grants program, schedules annual City Council visits to neighborhoods, supports the Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods, and organizes the annual Neighborhood University series.
Kari also ran the Neighborhood Connections program, which gave each neighborhood $25,000 every three years for projects selected by residents, including crosswalks, park upgrades, playgrounds, sport courts and pedestrian walkways.
Although Kari was sad to see the Connections program put on hold in 2011, it freed up time for her to focus on annexation, which has kept her busy fielding questions from new Kirkland residents about everything from services, such as road trimming, to mandatory garbage service, which hadn’t existed under King County.
Annexation also added three new neighborhoods to Kirkland. Kari worked with residents to determine the boundaries of Finn Hill (formerly the Denny Creek Neighborhood Alliance), Evergreen Hill (formerly Kingsgate), and North Juanita (which voted to combine with South Juanita into a single Juanita Neighborhood).
Kari sees her role more as a facilitator than an organizer. “It’s better to let neighborhoods organize themselves and decide what their goals and priorities are,” she believes. “It has to be grass roots or it won’t be effective.” She says it’s been very rewarding to give neighborhoods the tools to organize, and watch them succeed.
In addition to her neighborhood coordinator tasks, Kari also handles outreach and communication for Kirkland’s Capital Improvement program. She crafts notices and newsletters, notifies adjacent property owners about upcoming projects, and serves as the point of contact for questions.
Kari grew up with six siblings near Bellingham, Wa. She got her Masters in Regional Planning from Washington State University, and envisioned a career writing environmental impact statements.
After graduation, she was hired by the City of Bellingham to write a report on an economically struggling neighborhood. “I loved the people interaction,” she says. “I realized that’s what I wanted to do.”
When the City of Bellevue created a Neighborhood Enhancement program in 1988, Kari was hired as Program Manager. While driving to the job interview, she glimpsed the Kirkland waterfront from the freeway. On the way home she took the NE 70th exit into Houghton, called her husband, Galen – now owner of on Market Street – and told him, “I’ve found our new home.” A year later, they bought the house in Houghton where they still live.
Kari says Kirkland reminds her of Bellingham’s Fairhaven neighborhood “with the west-facing, sunny view and historic buildings.” She loves “the sense of community, the waterfront, parks and walkways, and the small town feel.”
WHEN KARI learned that Kirkland wanted to start a neighborhood program, she jumped at the opportunity to work in her own town.
Former City Manager Dave Ramsay says that hiring Kari was “a very wise choice. She is the heart and soul of the Neighborhood Services program. She makes it look easy. However, in reality it’s a tough balancing act.”
That balancing act includes juggling three kids with a lot of evening meetings. But the work has brought many rewards.
“I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed getting to know people through my job. I also like solving problems. It feels good to find win-win solutions – there’s always one if you look hard and have an open mind.”
She also likes seeing the tangible results of capital improvement projects.
Kari hopes the Connections program can be revived someday, but would prefer to see projects chosen on a competitive basis. She thinks that rewarding “those who come up with a really good idea, have strong support and leverage resources” could help encourage participation by all neighborhoods.
When she’s not working or at home, Kari is in motion. An avid runner since college, she has completed multiple full and half marathons, participating in the Kirkland half marathon and Kirkland Triathlon every year since they began.
Kari’s real passion is rowing. A member of the Lake Washington Rowing Club since 1999, she heads to Fremont at 5:30 am up to four times a week for a 90-minute workout on the water. Her team of four women travels to competitions all over North America, and in 2009 and 2011 they won the Canadian Masters National Rowing Championship in their age group.
As for the future, Kari says the thing she is most excited about is the . She looks forward to everyone - citizens and city staff - working together on planning and implementation. She agrees with those who are concerned about bikes and pedestrians sharing the same trail, and hopes funding can be found to build separate pathways.
When Kari moved to Kirkland, the city’s slogan was “A place people want to be.” Luckily for Kirkland, this is still the place Kari wants to be.