When it comes to emergency preparedness and community service on Mercer Island, the names of volunteers Dave and Kendra Uhler will surely rise near the top of the conversation.
During the Uhlers’ nine years living on the Island, the couple logged copious hours with emergency volunteer teams. During the pandemic, they led the charge in responding to calls of service, distributing masks and assisting the Youth and Family Services Department with donations management. During the city’s recovery from the E.coli incident in 2014, Dave played an integral role in managing Island volunteers performing water distribution at the Community and Event Center.
The Uhlers were named the Island’s outstanding citizens for 2019 and last month they were honored for their service with a recognition plaque and “Chief’s Coin” by Mayor Benson Wong, Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) Chief Ed Holmes and the department’s emergency preparedness officer Jennifer Franklin in a small ceremony held fittingly near the City Hall Emergency Operations Center.
Not long after the ceremony, the couple headed 135 miles away to its new home in Westport on the Washington coast with their daughter Liesl, 10, and Dave’s mother, Mary.
“A little surprise goodbye,” Kendra said last week. “That was really sweet,” said Dave, adding that over the years they met lots of good friends they care about on the Island.
For the last 10 years, they drove to Westport for weekend vacations and they figured it was time to make a permanent move to the city with a population of 2,099 residents. As she aged, Mary was living with the Uhlers on Mercer Island as well and it seemed ideal to remain in one spot and relocate to the city on the coast.
The move went seamless and they said that ocean living is stellar. They noted that Liesl was out crabbing with friends on a recent day and she loves participating in water-related activities.
Reflecting on their time on Mercer Island, Kendra said, “I kind of like that almost small-town vibe, which has made it really easy to move to an even smaller town like Westport. We see the same people around town, and we’ve lucked out with a really good neighbor who seems to know everyone and everything.”
Added Dave about Mercer Island, where they moved to from Seattle’s Central District because of its top-notch school district and quiet living: “It’s a cool community. It’s so weird to be in such a nest of major metropolitan areas, but you are such a small community right by yourself in there. That was kind of an appealing piece for me.”
Dave figures they’ll eventually get involved on the volunteer front in Westport. In fact, when speaking with MIPD Marine Patrol officer Greg Levinson, he learned that the officer knows the Westport fire chief. There’s already a connection between the cities, he said.
Franklin said the community will miss the Uhlers, adding that Liesl also helped her parents during the city’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) exercises.
“They’re great people. I tease them nonstop, I’m like, ‘You guys do realize that’s ‘Tsunami-ville,’” she said about Westport. “They’re the ultimate in being prepared and helping out their community.”
Added Mercer Island resident Pat Hackett: “Dave was one of the first people I met when I got interested in emergency preparedness, as he was teaching a class I attended. Over the years, I came to know him and Kendra and so appreciated the time and expertise they gave to the community. Dave is a person that exudes confidence and leadership, and that’s certainly what you need in an emergency.”