The Kirkland City Council selected Councilmember Penny Sweet during its Jan. 2 meeting to serve as mayor for the remainder of 2019.
Current Mayor Amy Walen is leaving the position and council to fully commit herself to her newly elected role as state representative for the 48th Legislative District. She announced her resignation on Dec. 11, 2018, which will be effective Jan. 31. Walen served on the council for nine years and was mayor for the last five.
“You’ve earned my respect, love, admiration and you make me feel very comfortable to leave this office in your capable hands,” Walen said to Sweet on Jan. 2. “You’re going to love having this job. It’s potentially, maybe, the best job in the world and I only leave it because there are some state things I need to work on.”
Sweet began her first term on the council in January 2010. She served as deputy mayor twice, from 2010-11 and 2014-15, according to the city’s website, and currently chairs the council’s public safety committee.
Sweet moved to Kirkland in 1985. She and her husband, state Rep. Larry Springer, have owned and operated The Grape Choice, a retail wine shop in downtown Kirkland for 31 years. She is a member of the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce and sits on its public policy committee.
“Penny’s leadership on public safety issues as well as her connections throughout the community make her the right person at the right time to lead Kirkland moving forward,” said Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold.
Sweet’s public service started in 1999, when she founded Celebrate Kirkland, Inc., a nonprofit organization that created and organizes the city’s annual 4th of July celebration. She has also helped organize the Winterfest tree lighting ceremony since 2013.
Sweet has served as a leader in many community groups, including the Market Neighborhood Association, the Kirkland Downtown Association and Kirkland Downtown Action Team, the Kirkland Art Center, the Kirkland Library and Kirkland Heritage Society.
She is a graduate of the inaugural class of Leadership Eastside in 2008, and is a past recipient of the Bill Woods Award for community leadership and the Anne J. Owen Award for community service.
Councilmember Jon Pascal thanked Walen for her “integrity, compassion, transparency.” He said the city of Kirkland has been “blessed over the years to have incredible leadership” and was thankful Sweet was willing to step up.
“Being mayor is definitely not an easy job, and being a great mayor is even harder,” Pascal said.
Pascal also outlined some of the expectations for the mayor.
“Someone who is excellent at building regional relationships to advance our interests as a city,” he said, “someone who can work collaboratively with all of us [councilmembers]…and staff and constituents; someone who can run our meetings efficiently, like Mayor Walen, but with grace and someone who will be the face of the city with the public; someone who will listen to their concerns and really try to solve problems.”
Sweet’s community service, as well as her professional background, reflect those qualities. She retired in 2007 as an associate director of business operations for Group Health Cooperative after 31 years. She managed business operations for five outpatient medical centers and was a member of the Group Health community action teams in Seattle and on the Eastside responsible for outreach and building community relations.
According to a city press release, Sweet serves on the council’s planning and economic development committee. She is also board member for Cascade Water Alliance, Hopelink, SCA Regional Water Quality Committee, Solid Waste Advisory Council and is chair of the Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee.
“I would like to thank my fellow councilmembers for selecting me to serve the Kirkland community as mayor,” Sweet stated in the release. “I also want to thank Rep. Amy Walen for her leadership during her almost 10 years of dedicated service on the Kirkland City Council.”
The city of Kirkland operates under the “council-manager” form of government, which means that the mayor’s responsibilities are primarily to preside at council meetings and act as the head of the city for ceremonial purposes and for purposes of military law, according to the release. The mayor votes as a councilmember and does not have veto power.
Also on Jan. 2, councilmembers discussed options for filling the council vacancy left by Walen stepping down, deciding on an open application process. The city will post more details when they are available.
See www.kirklandwa.gov for more.