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Carruthers is No. 1

Kate Carruthers is Bainbridge Island Citizen of the Year. - Ryan Schierling / Staff Photo
Kate Carruthers is Bainbridge Island Citizen of the Year.
— image credit: Ryan Schierling / Staff Photo

The Winslow attorney is named Citizen of the Year.

To Kate Carruthers, community involvement isn’t a burden.

It’s part of the reward of living in a small town.

For her decade-plus record of involvement in arts, humanitarian and community causes, the Kiwanis Club of Bainbridge Island has named Carruthers its Citizen of the Year.

“She is an invaluable resource to the City of Bainbridge Island,” said Judge Stephen Holman, who wrote in support of her nomination. “She is the heart and soul of BPA, a caring and good attorney for her clients, and beats most of the women half her age in the triathlon.”

Carruthers moved to Bainbridge Island in 1982, a new graduate of Gonzaga Law School going to work for a high-powered Seattle law firm and coping with the demands of single parenthood. She found a ready welcome.

“One night, after a busy day, I went shopping at Town and Country around 9 p.m. I had my two girls with me, and a cart overflowing with groceries – at least $100 worth.

“When I got to the checkstand, I discovered to my great embarrassment that I had forgotten my checkbook, and this was before there was any such thing as bank cards. But the checker, who didn’t know me, said, ‘just bring it in when you can.’

“I knew then that I was in a good place.”

Carruthers first got involved with the island’s theater community.

“That was my major in college and my first love, but I had to put that interest aside when I went to law school,” she said. “As luck would have it, the people I found a spot to sit next to on the ferry were theater people.”

That involvement led to a lengthy tenure on the board of Bainbridge Performing Arts, culminating in the fund-raising effort that led to the Playhouse.

“That wouldn’t have come to fruition without her hard work and will to make it happen,” said attorney Larry Mills, himself a former Kiwanis honoree who supported Carruthers’ nomination.

Next up was a role as one of the founding board members of the Kitsap County Dispute Resolution Center, which offers dispute-mediation services as an alternative to court battles.

She also became active in Washington Lawyers for the Arts, which offered free consultations and seminars for artists and arts organizations.

But by 1990, the grind of the commute and the need to keep focused on her big-city job began to override the advantages. So she hung out her shingle in Winslow, and became a small-town lawyer.

“I didn’t like the sense of being displaced all the time,” she said. “The practice here isn’t as sophisticated as in Seattle, and it certainly isn’t as lucrative, but it’s nice to live and work in your community, and have it all centered in one place.”

She volunteered to do the legal work for a start-up booster organization then known as Team Winslow, where she met Ed Kushner and Marge Williams.

Through those connections, she became heavily involved after Williams’ murder in fund-raising for the project that converted her residence and office building on Winslow Way into a home for island nonprofit organizations.

Her latest project is to serve as a director of the Bainbridge Island Community Endowment, which aims at raising a significant sum of money to be used long-term for community benefit.

“I saw how (island philanthropist) Jim Hodges could use the power of an endowment to turn a modest amount of endowment money into more, and create a long-term legacy,” she said.

What keeps her going is a high level of energy and the ability to integrate the various aspects of her life.

“I don’t see work as separate from life,” she said. “I’m rich, not monetarily, but in the wonderful rewards of being in a community.”

* * * * *

Kate Carruthers will be honored at the Kiwanis Installation Banquet at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Wing Point Country Club. The public is invited. Reservations (by Sept. 20): Greg Geehan, 855-1238, or John Jay, 842-7592.

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