MI City Council honors 2023 Community Members of the Year

Doris Cassan and Sandy Samuel share a mutual appreciation for each other and said they were honored to stand in one another’s presence at the June 18 Mercer Island City Council regular meeting.

Early in the meeting, Mayor Salim Nice read a pair of proclamations to honor Doris and her late husband James and Samuel’s late husband Cantor Bradlee Kurland posthumously as 2023 Community Members of the Year. Both men passed away in 2023.

The Cassans are longtime residents who have been involved in numerous service and philanthropic efforts on the Island, and Cantor Kurland served as cantor and music director at Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation since 1984, according to the proclamations.

Doris and Samuel were surrounded by family members and friends at the meeting and each stood at the podium to discuss their full lives on the Island and what made James and Kurland special citizens of the lush, tree-lined and welcoming city. Afterward, they posed for photos with family members and city councilmembers while clutching their gleaming awards.

“I just want to say thank you for this honor. It’s appreciated, but an honor to live on Mercer Island is even greater,” Doris said. “I think it was a God thing that we even arrived on this island.”

She noted that 57 years ago, she and James got lost traveling across Interstate 90 and spent the night at the old Island Travel Lodge. They never left the area.

As noted in a previous Reporter article, they opened the first Dollar Rent A Car in Seattle in 1968 and James later formed Dollar Development, which sturdily held the reins in bringing The Mercer East and West apartments to the Island in 2007 and 2014, respectively.

In the philanthropy realm, they supported Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club, Mercer Island School Foundation, Young Life, Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce and more.

While seated outside the Mercer Island Community and Event Center after the awards were presented, Doris told the Reporter: “It’s an honor to be recognized by where you spent so much time, to be honored by your peers and to be recognized. But that’s not what we do life for, to be recognized, we do it because that’s the way we feel. I feel very grateful.”

During her turn at the podium, Samuel said that her husband loved living and working on Mercer Island and had an affinity for its community members and his congregants at Herzl. Through thick and thin, he was ever-present for his congregants, Samuel added with a smile.

“Brad, my husband, would have been blown away by this honor. He was a self-effacing soul and would have felt he was not entitled to this honor — and we’re standing in the presence of greatness over here,” Samuel said while nodding to Doris.

Samuel continued, noting that Brad possessed a quirky sense of humor and always chatted up their neighbors while walking their dog three to four times a day to ease tension. He became familiar with others’ life stories on those strolls and enjoyed interacting with shoppers and employees at the grocery store while purchasing ingredients for meals he would cook.

“I also feel extremely honored because he never would have dreamed that something like this would happen in honor of him. He was a pretty humble person and he lived a good life here on Mercer Island,” Samuel told the Reporter.

Mayor Nice turned the microphone over to councilmembers to add some words about the award recipients.

Deputy Mayor David Rosenbaum’s family and Cantor Kurland’s family formed a strong bond over copious years. Rosenbaum’s father, Jay, served as rabbi and rabbi emeritus while working alongside Kurland at Herzl.

“Cantor Kurland was a shining example of what makes our Island and our community so special. He was a true mensch, whose light shined brightly and spread light and joy to so many in our community,” David said.

Councilmember Wendy Weiker thanked Doris, Samuel and their families for continuously supporting the community: “Both of your family members are leaving a profound legacy and I really appreciate you guys carrying their legacy forward for you and your family members.”

Added councilmember Craig Reynolds: “The people being honored tonight are incredible examples of generous behavior towards the rest of the community and I’m both impressed by it and grateful for it.”

From left, Mercer Island City Councilmember Jake Jacobson, Deputy Mayor David Rosenbaum, Sandy Samuel, Mayor Salim Nice, Doris Cassan and councilmember Craig Reynolds. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

From left, Mercer Island City Councilmember Jake Jacobson, Deputy Mayor David Rosenbaum, Sandy Samuel, Mayor Salim Nice, Doris Cassan and councilmember Craig Reynolds. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Cantor Bradlee Kurland. Courtesy photo

Cantor Bradlee Kurland. Courtesy photo

James Cassan. Courtesy photo

James Cassan. Courtesy photo