Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville has made it official: She will not seek a third term in office.
Linville announced on social media that she plans to retire when her term ends in December. She will have served in that role for eight years.
Linville said in a phone interview after the announcement that she considers being mayor the best job she’s ever had. She noted that she will be turning 71 this year and that it was time to do things that are not directly involved with public service.
“There was nothing negative that made me decide (not to seek a third term),” Linville said, adding that the reason she considered this her favorite job was it allowed her to focus on solving problems in the city where she was born and raised.
In her statement, Linville, the city’s first woman mayor, said she ran for the office in 2011 under the banner of “relationships, respect and results,” and believes that she was able to achieve much of what she set out to accomplish.
In the spirit of building relationships, Linville said that meant joining with many different agencies to get things accomplished. That included working to get a countywide Emergency Medical Services system in place and the Lake Whatcom Management Plan. She also noted partnerships to private sector projects, including the work that has begun with Northwest Recycling in rejuvenating Old Town.
Perhaps the biggest project that reflects that building of relationships is her work on the waterfront district, she said. That work started even before she was mayor, when she was a state legislator in Olympia. That included getting help for displaced workers when Georgia-Pacific closed its operations and getting funding for cleanup work. That project carried over when she was mayor, working with the Port of Bellingham to get projects started, including the city’s Waypoint Park.
Linville still has 10 months left in office and she plans to be busy working to finish other goals. She will continue work on the Post Point wastewater treatment plant replacement project, a $196 million plan to replace aging incinerators with equipment that would reduce greenhouse gases. She wants to see through an idea to create an over-the-water walkway along the waterfront district. She’s also interested in creating an urban village district at Bellis Fair if the owners of the mall, Brookfield Properties, are interested in adding residential units.
The one issue Linville feels she won’t be able to help solve in the time she has left as mayor is home affordability, as well as creating a permanent homeless shelter.
“It breaks my heart that we haven’t solved that,” Linville said. “I want everyone to go to bed in a warm place, and I don’t think it will happen on my watch. I will continue to work on it every day, though.”
After she retires, Linville said she plans on staying active in the community, but she hasn’t decided yet in what capacity.
Prior to becoming mayor, Linville served as a state representative for the 42nd District for 17 years. She was elected in 1992 to the position but lost her bid for re-election. She was appointed to fill a vacant seat in 1995, winning seven successive re-election bids, according to her biography.
Prior to entering the state legislature, Linville was a speech pathologist in the Bellingham Public School District.