Bob Sterbank named new city attorney
November 24, 2008 · Updated 4:20 PM
Olympia city attorney hired, Lindell assistant city manager
Special to the Reporter
Bob Sterbank, 43, was named the new city attorney for Mercer Island in January. He will begin work in mid-April. He comes to the Island from Olympia, where he has served as city attorney since 2002.
City Manager Rich Conrad led the search for the new attorney. He placed recruitment notices with municipal attorney associations, and received more than 20 applications. Conrad and a committee consisting of city department heads, the mayor, prosecutors and defense attorneys, the city attorney for Kirkland, and the current Mercer Island city attorney, Londi Lindell, then interviewed six people for the position.
“Bob was virtually a unanimous first choice candidate,” said Conrad. “He rose to the top very quickly.” Conrad said that in addition to his legal experience and an impeccable background, Sterbank received great references from lots of sources.
“We were fortunate in having a number of good candidates. We felt that Bob Sterbank had the appropriate experience we were looking for,” said Mayor Bryan Cairns. “He comes to us with experience in government, from cities that are larger than Mercer Island.” He added, “It's a privilege for us to get him and we look forward to having him with us for quite some time.”
Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Sterbank received both his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 and his law degree in 1989 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He served as an associate in the Seattle law firms of Helsell Fetterman and Peter J. Eglick & Associates before turning to municipal law. As an assistant city attorney in Federal Way, he worked under Lindell. When she left to become Mercer Island's city attorney, Sterbank inherited her job.
Londell said it's a credit to Mercer Island that they were able to get Sterbank. “I think it's a real coup for the city to draw an attorney of that caliber,” she said. “He is recognized in the state as an outstanding city attorney.” Londell will stay with the City of Mercer Island as Conrad's deputy city manager, and she's pleased at the prospect of having Sterbank on board. “I feel totally confident turning everything over to him,” she said.
Sterbank's pleased, too. “Londi taught me a lot about municipal law. I'm looking forward to working with her again,” he said. “Sometimes when a new person comes in, there can be a misunderstanding about what the previous person did or said. We'll be able to cut down on that; Londi will have the institutional knowledge,” he said.
Sterbank is enthusiastic about his new job. “The Mercer Island community is well-known as a great place to work, and as a leader in King County government issues, “ he said. “I feel like I'm a good fit with the organization, with Rich and the others on the management team.”
Sterbank likes the fact that environmental and sustainability issues are important to the city, and looks forward to dealing with issues surrounding I-90, the flight plan for the Renton airport, and the redevelopment of the central business district. “As a city attorney, it's a rare day when you show up at the office and work on what you thought you were going to when you left the house that morning,” he said.
Conrad agrees that the job is a varied and complicated one. “It's a very hard job, very complex,” said Conrad. “Municipal law is a very specific area of law. You have to be a generalist; you need to know a lot about a lot of things.”
Conrad said that one of the things he emphasizes when recruiting people to work for the City of Mercer Island is the ability for employees to lead a balanced life. “I like to think that you can have an engaged career but have a personal life, too,” said Conrad.
Sterbank admits that balance is one of the things that drew him to the job. His wife, Margaret King, also a lawyer, is winding down her job as staff counsel to the Water, Energy and Technology Committee in the state legislature in Olympia, and will be starting a new job when the family moves to the Eastside in a few weeks. The couple are parents of a daughter, Gabrielle, 21 months. “She's the child of lawyers, so she's already working on her alphabet,” said Sterbank.
Sterbank and his wife met at a dinner dance at a municipal attorney's conference. King is a former city attorney for Ketchum, Idaho. They love to ski, hike, mountain bike, and kayak. And Sterbank is a musician, too, playing both classical and jazz piano.
Conrad knows that happy employees make good employees, and he has faith that Sterbank is a good fit for the Island.
“He understands the community of Mercer Island and the challenges we will face,” he said.
“I'm looking forward to being here. It's going to be fun, challenging and productive,” said Sterbank. “There are really nice people working for Mercer Island. That shines through, in addition to their talents.”