I was born in Jersey City, NJ on November 1, 1957 the youngest of 3 daughters born to my mom, Barbara Martin (Henderer), a homemaker originally from Weehawken, NJ , and James “Jim” Martin, a merchant seaman and later salesman for Sandvik Steel from Carbondale, PA outside of Scranton.
My younger years were in West Milford, NJ, a very rural place at the time. We shot skeet, skated on frozen swamps and collected salamanders in the woods. We later moved from the sticks of West Milford to the NYC suburb of Ramsey, NJ when I was 10 and entering middle school. My dad was working at Sandvik in Fairlawn.
Ramsey was fun and there was always something for kids to do. Our cousins and other family lived nearby. I made a few good friends, learned to play the guitar, and took up sewing, horses and golf with my grandmother’s, mother’s and father’s encouragement. I paid for my riding lessons myself ($5 a lesson in 1967) by babysitting like crazy which paid 50 cents an hour back then. LOL. If you can believe it, I babysat for 2 kids for 3 days when I was only 12 years old while their parents went to Woodstock. OMG. Luckily, I have always been a trusted and responsible person, even when I was a kid.
When I was going into my sophomore year, my dad moved us back to the sticks, this time to NE Pennsylvania because he and others had talked Sandvik into building a manufacturing plant in Clarks Summit, PA outside of Scranton. My sisters and I spent our high school years in Tunkhannock, a wonderful small town in the Endless Mountains where everybody knows your name. I made a few good friends, learned to garden, had my own horse and came to appreciate living in the country.
I skipped my senior year at the high school there and took an early admission to Keystone College where I studied liberal arts and learned to speak French.
I transferred as a junior to the Landscape Architecture program at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York (an upper division college at the time where everyone transferred in as juniors). The only reason I did that is because I took an independent study course at Keystone called “Choosing A Vocation” and Dr. Bitner guided me well. I made a few good friends, received a 5-year degree in Landscape Architecture, and spent my 5th year abroad studying what makes one park successful and another not while living in Paris, France.
I relocated to Seattle in 1979 upon graduation, just as the economy had tanked on the East Coast. I shared a number of houses on Capitol Hill with then-strangers, and now lifelong friends. I was lucky that the first shared house I landed in was full of native Seattleites who took me right in and worked me into their social lives. What luck. I worked for Cummings Schlatter Architects in Kirkland on school projects in the Snohomish and Lake Washington school districts, new towns in Saudi Arabia, and condos in Bellevue until the economy fell out in Seattle.
I weathered the storm at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, as a server at Shuckers. It was a great experience. I made lifelong friends there, too, but also lost some wonderful ones to the AIDS epidemic. The hotel did everything they could to try and move me to management including making me employee of the year in 1986, but I was determined to get back to my planning and design career. Soon after, I bought a home in PhinneyWood (we called it Greenwood then) and I started taking work as a design consultant.
I had met my future husband at Four Seasons, though. He was a recent undocumented immigrant from Mexico, José Chavez, who later got amnesty from the Reagan administration, a green card, and citizenship. José’s dream has always been American. He worked his way up from a dishwasher at El Toreador (now Luisa’s) on Holman Road to Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons and then Executive Chef of the convention center (where he is now) while we raised two sons, Emilio and Esteban “Steb”, who are now adults, both living in Seattle. In 2016, José and I separated after 25 years of marriage and divorced last spring. We both wish the best for each other.
I have worked as a planning and design consultant on “both sides of the door” making floor plans and site plans for most of my life. I only advertise my garden work, because otherwise I would get no gardens. Word of mouth for floor plans is alive and well and they are my professional obsession.
I live in a 1954 home that I re-designed from a rambler to a 3-story in 2007. I walk the talk of owner-occupied development, affordable shared housing, and the gentle density strategies that I believe in.
I began a long history of volunteering and civic participation in the 80s. One thing led to another as they tend to do when you jump in and I’m very proud of my many involvements and accomplishments in that arena over more than 30 years.
First, I trained to become a King County Master Gardener and volunteered with them for 10 years mostly diagnosing plant problems at clinics – including the Greenwood Fred Meyer and later giving talks about how to create privacy with plants.
Then when my sons were little, I got involved at St John School on Phinney Ridge. We eventually remade the front of the school, the landscape around the church and school and then a wonderful portico on the north side of the building with a lovely courtyard. It was one of the best volunteer projects of my life and I met so many great friends from that and other projects there, I can’t even tell you.
Soon after, I started going to Greenwood Community Council meetings just after the first round of bottom up Neighborhood Plans (thank you, Jim Diers) and got involved in advocacy for skateparks because my kids started to skate and there weren’t any parks. I formed Parents for Skateparks with Scott Shinn and we advocated with others for a Citywide Skatepark Plan which we got and which is almost fully implemented now.
Neighbors in Greenwood, Bob Mirenzi and Diann Knezovich, made me aware of the massive dewatering of the Greenwood Bog by the Safeway building. It was sinking homes and infrastructure because the dewatering to keep the store’s lower floor dry was drying and compacting the peat. I worked to have a new Environmentally Critical Area created called “Peat Settlement Area” which helps protect existing structures and informs new construction to do no more harm since the peat bog is the summer source of water for Piper’s Creek.
Then I started going to more meetings and eventually became the Acting Chair of the Piper’s Creek Watershed Council and a representative for Greenwood CC at the NW District Council. Eventually I would serve as President of the Greenwood Community Council and I became a reviewer of Department of Neighborhoods large projects in the Matching Fund program for several years.
I later formed the Bi/Ped Safety Coalition with others to advocate for bicycle and pedestrian safety. I served on the Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Committee, The Aurora Avenue Safety Project and on the Neighborhood Plan Update Committee.
I formed a group called Greening Greenwood and led neighborhood teens on beautification projects for years. We also did a holiday “Lighting of the Trees” at Greenwood Market for 6 years.
I became a friend of Greenwood Boys and Girls Club and volunteered to help them plan and implement an emergency remodel with a new cleaner air system and a better floor plan when they had to temporarily close because of bad air quality in the club.
Not long after, I joined in to help my friend Andrea Okomski, whose son, Joe Robinson, was hit by a car while crossing N 85th St to catch a bus to Ballard High School. I designed and managed the construction of a brain injury clubhouse called “Brainworks” at Provail up at 125th and Aurora Ave N.
As my sons grew, I became obsessed with public education. I imagine that I might be the only Seattle City Council member who actually understands what’s going on with Seattle Public Schools.
In 2009, I had a “stand in” at Roosevelt High School to get my son a math teacher who could teach math. He had been assigned a guy who put movies on and failed to teach math to thousands of students over many years. Many students and parents told me he was a legend as far as bad teachers. Tragically, the principal at each of the schools where he taught were complicit with keeping him on as he had been moved around to 5 different schools. Although I was only armed with lipstick, Chapstick, and my brain, the principal called the cops on my “stand in”. Only at Roosevelt, LOL, yet I prevailed. The cop and I had a few good laughs, I got my son a competent teacher, and I convinced the unqualified teacher to quit because I said I would protest on the sidewalk outside the school until he did.
The District 2 Seattle School Board race called me in 2011. That was my first venture into electoral politics. My tagline was “Kate does her homework.” and it’s true. I do. Though a neophyte to campaigns at the time, I challenged an incumbent and managed to garner over 47% of the votes in the General Election. That was very inspiring.
I later ran an unsuccessful race for mayor in 2013 (Seattle Times called me an “Idea Machine”) and my effort to replace the viaduct with an awesome elevated view park for the people, Initiative 123, failed.
But, you just can’t keep me down. I was re-invigorated by the “head tax revolt” and I’m ready to help compose a new City Council that will fix the mistakes we’ve been making. I’m taking everything I learned so far in my life to the finish line in this City Council race. The primary election is August 6, 2019.
I sure want you with me out on the campaign trail, so stay in touch with my newsletter.