Soon-to-be Kirkland city councilmember Neal Black was elected into office in November but the longtime resident is no stranger to service.
Black has served on the Houghton Community Council, has roots in public policy and has coached Kirkland American Little League baseball.
He will serve on city council until his term expires on Dec. 31, 2021, filling a vacancy created by the election of councilmember Kelli Curtis to Pos. 2, according to the city of Kirkland.
The new councilmember grew up in Prineville, a small town in Central Oregon. He graduated high school and went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in civil engineering and a juris doctor degree from Georgetown University.
It was his work on environmental issues as an undergrad that sparked his interest in environmental law and policy, Black said. And his upbringing in a small town surrounded by a natural habitat led to his passion for the environment.
“I grew up in place …where you’re immersed in natural environment in a way that you can’t ignore,” Black said. “Especially when you leave a place like that and go out into the wider world, you begin to appreciate that the natural environment that is so much apart of your life is not an unlimited resource.”
This passion led to his work on public policy for the White House Office on Environmental Policy, the California State Assembly Natural Resources Committee and the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Enforcement Division. He also worked as a law clerk intern for the Environmental Defense Fund.
For more than 10 years Black has been a partner at the Adkins Black law firm. Before this he was vice president and general counsel of Square Enix and also previously served as vice president and general counsel of Emergent Payments.
In 1998 Black moved to Kirkland and eventually into the central Houghton neighborhood. Prior to his election to council, Black served on the Houghton Community Council. He was elected to this position in November 2017. While on the Houghton council he worked on Kirkland land use planning and zoning issues.
Now on council, Black will have influence on a broader range of issues that affect a broader group of residents. He’ll go from representing about 6,000 in Houghton to representing about 88,000 Kirkland residents, Black said.
As a councilmember, Black said he’ll continue his principles of sound governance and help build the public’s faith in government with open government, community outreach and sound decision making.
“One of the great things about Kirkland is the high functioning of its city leadership…They work really hard on community outreach and trying to meet the public where they are,” he said. “I feel I’m joining a group that already has my core values in mind.”
Black also plans to work to give voice to teen mental health issues. He will encourage public discourse, openness and transparency on that front as well, he said.
“Not necessarily a specific city council thing but incumbent upon on all community leaders to have open discussion [on this],” he said.
Black added that an open dialogue on suicide will reduce the stigmas that surround mental health issues.