Symmonds’ graceful leadership

As an Islander, I have a good deal of faith in the workings of the staff at the City of Mercer Island, especially when people like Deb Symmonds are involved.

But regrettably, the City of Mercer Island said their official goodbye last week to Deb Symmonds, the assistant city manager, who worked for the city for 27 years.

Symmonds, who took an early retirement late last fall due to health reasons, was feted at City Hall last Monday evening for her extraordinary and long service to the city and the Island. There was laughter and a few tears.

Her fingerprints are everywhere on the Island, in places both obvious and behind the scenes.

Symmonds has been involved in most, if not all major issues that have faced the Island these past three decades — issues both big and small — from I-90 to the acquisition and planning for Luther Burbank Park; from tree ordinances to leash laws, from the new community center to improving the public involvement process.

Her long time co-worker and friend, City Manager Rich Conrad, is sorry and sad to see her go.

When he announced her departure in October, he wrote a heartfelt e-mail to employees at the city.

“I now know what it is like to lose an arm,” he wrote. “I just lost the one on my right that has been there for nearly three decades,” .

Her job is being filled by at least two people now.

In a resolution passed by the City Council last week to honor her, there were several important points. First, that after her many years of service at all types of levels in the community, Symmonds wisely knew that “it all comes down to parking.” Also, that her “graceful and elegant leadership has served to mentor many.” And finally, the recognition that Symmonds is retiring from the city “leaving it in far better shape than how she found it 27 years ago.”

We agree. Thank you, Deb.

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