“A tiny little lady with a big heart.” That’s how Mountlake Terrace City Clerk and Community Relations Director Virginia Clough described former longtime Mountlake Terrace Planning Commissioner and Chair Alice Kier, who died on Feb. 8 at age 79 following a serious illness.
Clough said that Kier’s many years of leadership and long-term vision helped the city achieve its goals of becoming an attractive, walkable place with an updated Town Center. “She talked about the big projects on Main Street and the civic campus, Ballinger Park converting from a golf course to a park, the Interurban Trail, and it was before the Lakeview Trail, but I know subsequently she was really proud of that too,” Clough said.
Looking back on the past 15 years of city accomplishments, “Alice drove it on the Planning Commission side and (late City Councilmember and Mayor) Jerry Smith really drove the bus on the council side along with others,” Clough said. “It’s come to fruition and we’re all very proud of it.”
Kier was appointed to the Planning Commission in 1994 and served there for 25 years. She was selected as commission chair in 2004, and at the time of her retirement in 2019 had attended approximately 500 commission meetings, Clough said.
During that time, Kier led the commission through the adoption of the city’s award-winning Town Center Plan in 2007, its recommendation on Aging Civic Facilities in 2008 and the Governor’s Smart Communities Award for Town Center Planning in 2009. In addition, she participated in planning decisions that resulted in Mountlake Terrace receiving three highly coveted Vision 2040 Awards — in 2009, 2014 and 2015 — from the Puget Sound Regional Council.
Kier’s additional municipal efforts as a volunteer included serving on the Downtown Revitalization Committee (1993), Civic Facilities Advisory Task Force (2008), Economic Vitality and Town Center Task Force (2018).
“She was really vested in the community, being for the citizens and she wanted it to be a better place that people were proud of,” said Senior Planner Edith Duttlinger. Describing Kier’s efforts with the Town Center and her involvement on many other civic committees, Duttlinger said she “wanted to just see the city blossom and she was really passionate about that.”
Several people who had worked with Kier in various capacities over many years described her as thoughtful and deliberate, and soft-spoken but adamant. Despite her 5-foot stature, she was recalled as a dynamo who was never timid.
Mayor Pro Tem Doug McCardle, who served with Kier on the Planning Commission before he was elected to the city council, said she was a “good team player,” willing to listen and be open to what other people in the community had to say. “She had a good vision of the city and wanted to embrace the growth and changes, but do it correctly,” he said.
McCardle pointed to her efforts to help get a new city hall building constructed and her forward-looking vision when it was announced that the Sound Transit Link light rail system and station would be coming to the city. “(She) wasn’t afraid to take a look at what in the future might change Mountlake Terrace and then just kind of start planning for it that way as well as being able to deal with current issues as far as development, zoning codes and design standards,” he said.
“She was one of the sweetest people and we had some pretty funny go-arounds where she was really adamant about something and then subsequently, she would say, ‘I was wrong,’” Duttlinger said. “She was big enough to say, ‘I had this in mind and OK, I see that it worked out well doing it this way.’”
According to a 2014 newspaper article, Kier was born in Spokane and as the daughter of a Boeing worker grew up in the south Seattle area and Renton. In 1967, she moved to Mountlake Terrace, where she raised her two children Dan and Kelley.
She worked for a time in the city’s downtown area at Herres Services, which was one of the businesses destroyed in the East Plaza arson fire. In a 2015 City Happenings newsletter, Kier said her family spurred her initial efforts in developing the city’s commercial core. “My relatives wanted to come and visit and go shopping in Mountlake Terrace but there was nowhere to shop. We had to go to Northgate Mall or downtown Seattle.” She noted that at the time she became involved, there was a grocery store, drug store and butcher shop, but Mountlake Terrace lacked options for items such as clothing and jewelry.
Kier was also a longtime member of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Mountlake Terrace. Her church activities included being involved in the Traditional Choir, Ladies’ Guild, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, serving on the parish council, volunteering as a designated adorer at the adoration chapel, helping count donations, assisting with church rummage and bake sales, and participating in 40 Days for Life campaign events.
Nancy Bowman, the church’s long-time secretary said Kier was an animal lover who would always bring treats for Bowman’s dog, which accompanies her to work. “She was in the middle of everything, it was hard to have anything going on here that she wasn’t involved in,” Bowman said of Kier’s church activities.
“She was just a powerhouse,” a warm, comfortable presence and staple of life at the church who “had it covered, and she was just wonderful,” Bowman said. She also noted that Kier was strongly opinionated, but would always qualify after speaking her mind that, “’I’m not judging, and I know my Lord knows that.’”
Kier’s ability and willingness to balance her faith and community activities will be missed at her church. Fr. Cal Christiansen, pastor of St. Pius X parish, said, “She is someone who kind of encompasses both that contemplative sense of prayer, but then also service.”
Clough said she was sad that she won’t be able to give Kier an in-person tour of the new City Hall when it opens. Upon learning last week of her hospitalization, Clough took current pictures, of the soon-to-be unveiled city hall interior, which she then printed off and sent to Kier’s room through a mutual friend. “I said, ‘Even if she can’t see them, I want you to read my notes on the back of the photos and give her a virtual tour,’” Clough reported.
“She made a big contribution to the community and she was happy that she was seeing things change,” Duttlinger said. “There are a lot of people that will miss her.”
— By Nathan Blackwell