Early Years

Christine Himes was born and raised in Washington DC, like her mom and most of her family. She went to McKinley Technical High School and met her future husband at the University of Maryland. Growing up in DC during the time of McCarthy and Kennedy, Christine had a favorable view of government. Her mom worked in the Senate for the Governmental Operations Committee. It’s chairman, Governor Aiken, was her boss. She was a stenographer, taking notes and transforming speeches into writing. “We just grew up with government and thought it was good. Everyone lived that way. It wasn’t until we moved to Mercer Island that we met people who didn’t like government,” Christine says.

Christine’s dad, George Tennyson, with Christine at St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Wash. DC, 1939
McKinley Technical High School Graduation prom 1947. Shoreham Hotel, Wash. DC

Move to Washington

Jack and Christine and two young children moved to Washington in 1956. By then her father and mother had passed away and many friends had moved away. They didn’t have much holding them in DC.  Jack had been offered a territory of his own when Holeproof was bought out by Hanes Hosiery. His territory encompassed five states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Jack figured a big territory of his own to manage was a good thing. “It was a lot of driving,” Christine says. They Shorewood apartment on “rural” Mercer Island was also quite a shock. In DC, they had a million people in any direction. They moved to Bellevue where they lived for seven years.

Life in Redmond

The Himes clan grew. When Jack and Christine moved to Redmond they had five children. The opening of the 520 Bridge gave them access to Seattle and the clothing stores there. In 1964 they moved to a property on NE 116th street, between Redmond Woodinville Road and Avondale, on Education Hill. They sank their roots in Redmond where they stayed until 2001. Back then Redmond felt much more rural. Christine missed the amenities that surrounded her in DC, but she loved the life they were carving out in Redmond.

“Our neighborhood was really, really beautiful,” She says. “There were no sidewalks, no city lights, no city water. We all had our own septic. We loved it.” The kids attended Lake Washington School District traveling from Horace Mann Elementary to Redmond Jr. High and on to Redmond High School. Christine kept busy with school, being a room mother and going on all the excursions. “My children volunteered me for everything,” she says. When their kids asked for horses, Jack and Christine were able to oblige. They joined a horse group called the Trailblazers, which led Christine down a path to community activism.

The Himes moves to their home in Redmond, 17439 NE 116th St. in 1964. Jack passed away in 1997. Christine lived there until 2001

Getting Involved Politically

Redmond was growing and changing. Instead of developing neighborhoods like the one the Himes lived in, the city was putting in big housing divisions. These developments took forested city land that had been filled with trails used by the Trailblazers. Since these horse trails were being lost, Christine thought that Farrel McWhirter Park, seventy acres off Avondale that had been left to the City of Redmond, might be a perfect place to build a horse arena for the children to ride and have horse shows.

A family photo taken for Faith Lutheran Church Directory. Darlene, Carole, Donna, Valerie, Christine, Craig and Jack, in1966.

She stood before the Redmond city council and asked the mayor if they would consider annexing the park. “The mayor looked at me like I was crazy,” Christine remembers. “He said that that was premature, the park was outside the city limits, there no there was no plan for annexation, and that we needed to figure something else out,” Christine remembers. Like other indomitable women, Christine did. It just wasn’t what he imagined.

She ran for the city council. And she won. John Couch was the Parks Director at that time. He had been with the city for many years; his tenure would last for thirty years altogether. John and Christine put together a bond issue and finally got it through the mayor and the council.  It passed. That was the beginning of the nineteen parks and the trail systems that Christine had a hand in starting; they kept Redmond beautiful even as building was booming.

1979. Christine at Justice White House , while running for office. The plaque on the building was part of a Bicentennial Project for the “First Redmond Walking Tour.” Christine helped get 14 buildings designated for their historic value and the brochure was written by Dorothy White Hanscom, Granddaughter of Justice William White, justice for the Supreme Court of Washington State

Christine served on the Redmond City Council from 1975 to 1977. In 1976, John Couch appointed her chairman of the bicentennial celebration. There was a lot of community involvement celebrating America’s two hundred years of nationhood. After the bond issue passed, there was a lot of money from the state and county. Redmond citizens had chipped in too. Christine’s friends told her that she should run for mayor to ensure that the money was used for the parks and not siphoned off into other projects. She did. In 1979 Christine was elected Mayor of Redmond by 63% of the votes. She took office in January 1980. “That was when my troubles started,” she says.

Mayor of Redmond

The previous mayor, Bud Young, was OK. He had served for three terms. He didn’t have much of an agenda apart from putting housing all over the place. Redmond residents were apprehensive. The old city council was apprehensive about Christine. Some of the old guard had lost. Those that remained didn’t like that Christine had won and didn’t think much of what she was doing. They held a shadow cabinet that met at Bud’s Drive In, which is now apartments. They even tried to recall her, but failed. Reminiscing, Christine says. “it was a microcosm of politics in DC. People in the different parties are always trying to figure out how to put a knife in someone else’s back.”

Christine played an important role in Microsoft’s move to Redmond. The Evergreen East land was partly in Redmond, partly in Bellevue. The property was owned by several different outlets including the Bon Marche and Allied Stores. Individuals also owned property in it. Edward DeBartolo, a developer based in San Francisco and best known for his ownership of the San Francisco 49ers, wanted to put a big shopping mall in Evergreen East. Kemper Freeman, who owned Bellevue Square, opposed DeBartolo because he said it was the tail wagging the dog. He may not have wanted the competition. There was also competition between Redmond and Bellevue for tax money. And the private landowners didn’t want a mall there either. In any case, all the neighbors went crazy. They came out in mass to the council. With public opinion against his dream, DeBartolo gave up.[1]

John Wallace, the city attorney, decided Redmond should leverage Evergreen East with a business. He went to work with Kay Shoudy, who was the Planning Director. There were what were called “Enterprise Zones” then. The Washington Legislature had approved enterprise zones as a way to allow start up business to go for three or four years without paying taxes. Kay looked through the legislature that had approved the Enterprise Zone, and figured out a way to leverage it to make it attractive to businesses. That’s how they appealed to a fledgling company called Microsoft. The rest is history. That’s how Evergreen East super mall died a painful death, but Microsoft was planted in Redmond.

Christine in her Mayor’s office, January 1980

Christine opposed another project that greatly changed Redmond: the Redmond Town Center. At one time a eighteen-hole neighborhood golf course ran alongside the “Slough” as old-timers called it. A very compact course, it was great for kids and the elderly. John Graham owned the golf course. He decided to sell it to Winmar, the real estate arm of Safeco.

Christine remembers, “I didn’t like the Plan that they presented. I thought it was a thrown-up mall. I called it the “cinder block mall.” They didn’t want to leave any kind of parks and or other amenities. Their idea of amenities were median strips where you can have a picnic table. I was very angry with them. They were destroying a very nice spot next to Marymore Park.” Christine knew the owner had every right to sell his property. She led the charge to buy the golf course through a bond issue. It was close, but it didn’t go. It took a long time for the project managers to come up with a plan for something nice. Finally, work began on the Town Center. After six or seven years and many project managers, it was finished. Christine wasn’t mayor then. Her time ended in 1984.

When she visits the Town Center Mall now Christine smiles because “it is a lot better than what I originally imagined.” She likes the open-air concept instead of stores stacked on each other, and the fountain. It was finished after she left the mayor’s office, when Doreen Marchione was mayor. The Town Center never did generate the kind of money that had been promised. Redmond had to supply water, sewer, police and fire. Christine knows that when you hold office and wield power, you win some battles and you lose some.

The 85th Street Bridge

A battle that Christine won was the 85th Street Bridge. It was built during Christine’s administration. A leader on this project, the Public Works director, one of Christine’s new department heads, was Fred Herzberg. Herzberg had been a Coast Guard Commander, who ran Governor’s Island in New York. Christine recalls, “We were looking at ways to get business for the City of Redmond. We thought if we could get the bridge to the Industrial Park, we could help business. Fred put together a program to cross the river. We had to go through the Federal Government because it was a navigable waters system. Fred knew how to do that. He knew how to do things. It took two years. But we got a bridge.” The 85th Street Bridge opened a quick and easy way to get from the Industrial zoned area to Redmond for business. You no longer had to circle around to Willows Road.

Conclusion

The many Redmond residents who use the 85th Street Bridge are thankful for the tenacity and teamwork of Christine. They were a consensus building organization. She didn’t fold under pressure. She had a vision to keep Redmond beautiful by creating or preserving nineteen parks and the trail systems. I’m thankful that she learned and lived the lessons of WA DC well: government can be a great force for good when power is used wisely and generously for the common good.

She didn’t do it alone. The department heads she hired worked at her side. Everyone she hired was top drawer, like Jeanne Large, who she met on the city council, who lead the new Personnel Department, and Fred Herzberg, who was over public works. In 2020, Jeanne and Fred they celebrated thirty-two years of partnership and friendship, taking Christine to lunch. Her most important was her husband, Jack. “He was my rock,” she says.Inspired by the beautiful city of her childhood, Christine played a part in making Redmond the beautiful city it is. Growing up in Washington DC, she valued the role of public servants who are elected to do job that has a time limit, learned the value of good government and leveraged that in her role in Redmond. Her story reminds us of the importance of public service, and, how much can be accomplished by strong allies who work together for the common good.  “It was a great experience.” Christine says. I hope that many Redmond citizens will be inspired by her example of working for the common good             


[1] Real Estate broker, Bert McNae tells the story of Evergreen East in his book Visions, Guts and Money

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