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About Town: Former Kirkland Leader Finds Walking Good for the Soul, City

Kirkland resident and former city manager Dave Ramsey recently walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and says that walking helps build community.

FORMER KIRKLAND City Manager Dave Ramsey loves to walk so much that a few months ago he hoofed it 500 miles across Spain. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is only the most recent of his long-distance treks. He’s also walked across parts of England, Scotland, and Wales.

He owes some of his passion for walking to his Scottish father and English mother. “I came by it honestly – or genetically,” he says with a chuckle. “The English love to walk, or ramble, as they say.”

Although Dave loves the introspection, insights and adventures of his long overseas walks, he is passionate about walking close to home as well, and he believes that walking is good public policy.

“It really addresses so many of the important issues – health, environmental, public safety. It even addresses economic issues. A walkable 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. The best thing you can say about a community is that it’s walkable.”

The Highlands neighborhood resident thinks Kirkland rates “pretty well” in terms of walkability. “Some parts are great, especially the older parts, which have sidewalks and things to walk to. The challenge is in the annexation areas, which don’t yet have the connectivity. I hope that becomes a goal of the city.”

During his tenure as city manager, Dave started the Active Living Task Force, and encouraged the creation of safe walking routes all over the city.

Growing up in Magnolia, Dave walked everywhere as a kid, and was active in sports. “Tennis was my favorite, but you name it, I played it.”

With age -- he's 64 now -- came less tolerance for the wear and tear of sports, and he turned increasingly to walking. “More and more,” he says, “walking fit the bill.”

On trips to visit family in England, he’d go on day rambles. He says that England is particularly well-suited for walking because of the “right to roam” act that allows access to historical paths, even if they go through private land.

“Then,” he says, “I started hearing about these things called ‘long distance walks,’ and that really intrigued me.”

IN 2005, Dave tried the 80-mile Fife Coast Path in Scotland, and was hooked.

In 2007, he embarked on the longer Coast-to-Coast walk across England, covering 200 miles in two weeks. The scenery was stunning. “I thought I was on a movie set most of the time,” he remembers wistfully.

His next walk, a few years later, was the 176-mile Offa's Dyke Path in Wales.

Then this past fall, he tackled one of the longest and perhaps most legendary walks in Europe, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

From St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, Dave traipsed 500 miles across northern Spain in a month. This walk, he says, was different in many ways from his previous rambles. Instead of traversing fields, the Camino winds along roads and wide paths, and unlike the lonelier byways he’d wandered before, it’s well-traveled. He delighted in meeting people from all over the world.

Dave's passion for travel, and for good public policy, began as a Peace Corps community development volunteer in Sierra Leone, where he learned through trial and error about how to organize effective projects.

 “It was my Peace Corps experience that inspired me to get into local government.”

After 12 years as Kirkland’s city manager, Dave left in 2010 to move on to what he calls his “next phase.” He continues to be involved in shaping public policy.

“I do some consulting, volunteering, non-profit work, and having fun. I try to keep a balance, though it’s not always easy.”

As a consultant with Washington Information Network WIN 211, he helps find sustainable funding for this free referral service that connects people with over 10,000 human services. He’s on the board of – no surprise – Feet First, as well as the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy, Eastside Timebank, and Municipal Research and Services Center.

He also volunteers with the Green Kirkland Partnership in and Parks, where he helps to “battle those blackberries.”

He loves Kirkland’s sense of community and that it feels different than other cities. “It has a sense of funkiness and quirkiness that I’m frankly concerned we’ll lose if we’re not careful.”

What can people do to prevent this from happening? It’s no surprise that Dave’s number one piece of advice is to “Get out walking.”

“We don’t see our neighbors as much as we’d like to – that’s a challenge to community.” A challenge that walking can help address.

As for volunteering, he says, “You get far more out than you put in – that’s the secret of volunteering.”

Dave might agree that it’s the secret of walking as well.

Kevin Nalder February 28, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Dave, Congratulations, WOW!! 500 miles. Thank you for continuing to be an inspirational leader and ambassador for the City of Kirkland. You walk the talk for a more cohesive and environmentally responsible community. - Kevin Nalder
Darsi Fouillade February 28, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Yay for walkable communities and inspiring long walks!
Greg Johnston February 28, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I sure agree, that's an impressive trek! As a longtime hiker and runner, I know well the multiple benefits of putting miles under your feet -- Dave is an inspiration.
Laura Westlund February 29, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Good going Dave! I have always admired your walkability even when you would walk past my office on Market Street. I do agree with you when you say we don't talk/walk with and to our neighbors often enough! Laura Westlund

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