Eric Shields, long-time city of Kirkland planning and building director and resident, died the morning of Nov. 23, after a multi-year battle with cancer, according to a city press release.
He is survived by his wife Deborah, daughters Caitlin and Emily, son-in-law Mads and two grandchildren. His work family at the city of Kirkland, and dozens of friends and colleagues who knew and worked with Shields over the years, were fortunate to be able to visit with him in the weeks before his passing, the release states.
According to the release, Shields received his master of urban planning degree from the University of Washington and bachelor of arts degree in geography from the University of Oregon. He began as an intern in Kirkland in 1977 and came on staff as a planner soon thereafter. After a three-year stint with the city of Des Moines, Shields returned to Kirkland in 1992 to become the planning director. The position of planning director was later expanded to be director of planning and building in 2015.
During the two and a half decades of his leadership as Kirkland’s planning director, the city doubled in population from 44,000 to 88,000, the city’s downtown grew into a walkable urban jewel on Lake Washington and Kirkland’s reputation grew as a model for smart, well-planned growth, according to the release. Shields was an exemplary leader of his staff, modeling and nurturing an organizational culture of excellence, respect, innovation and accomplishment.
“Eric’s legacy is that his vision made Kirkland the green, livable, walkable community that we all love,” city manager Kurt Triplett said in the release. “The city is incredibly grateful for Eric’s decades of dedication to this community, for his leadership as planning and building director and for the kind and compassionate approach he brought to his work and his colleagues.”
Shields was also a leader among his planning director peers in King County, known for his ability to communicate the value of planning and key planning concepts to citizens and elected officials and to communicate those ideals beyond the boundaries of the city of Kirkland, the release states. Shields is well remembered for his skill at writing and editing proposed planning policies until they were lean, clear and vividly conveyed the core meaning. He successfully applied these skills not only to Kirkland, but also to the work of the King County Inter-Jurisdictional Team, the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Washington State Planning Directors, according to the release.
“Eric Shields was one of the smartest and most effective planners I ever knew,” said long-time friend and colleague Joe Tovar in the release. “He was kind, compassionate, resilient and brave. Eric was a true servant leader. We are all blessed to have known him.”
Sheilds’ family has arranged for a celebration of life for him at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2019 at the Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave. The community is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served following the event. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to The Nature Conservancy or the Kirkland Firefighters Benevolent Association.