Council sees a changing of the proverbial guard -- Christine Rolfes

Exiting councilor Christine Rolfes at City Hall. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Exiting councilor Christine Rolfes at City Hall.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

Christine Rolfes says she may write a book about her six years on the council dais...

Retiring Councilwoman Christine Rolfes didn’t fit the stereotype of the glad-handing, baby-kissing politician when she made a campaign stop on Christopher Snow’s doorstep.

Her hands were full with little cookies and a “sippy cup,” and all the baby kissing went to the one slung on her back.

“I’ve been one of Christine’s most enthusiastic fans from the first time I met her,” said Snow, who was elected to Rolfes’ seat in November after she declined to run again. “She was carrying her young child on one of those slings and walked up my driveway during her door-belling campaign. I was impressed then that she was someone with something to do and that she was going about it in a very active way.

“On the council, she became a force moving things forward in a congenial way. She’s a tough act to follow.”

Rolfes stood up from her seat behind the dais at City Hall for the last time Wednesday, after six years on the council. Spurred into running for office over growth management, open space and traffic issues, Rolfes feels she’s made significant headway in each area.

“I’m most proud of Pritchard Park and the (Japanese-American) memorial there,” she said. “I’ve seen that project from the beginning and now I get to see the rewards, and that’s really gratifying.

“Early on, that whole property was zoned for pretty high density, commercial development. Now it’s a premier, regional park.”

Rolfes also looks back on her two terms – the second was shortened by redistricting – as an opportunity to help shepherd the Open Space Bond, various non-motorized transportation improvements and the Serenity House.

But the most satisfying part of her tenure has been working collaboratively with city staff and the community, she said.

“Being on the council gets you out of your circle with an amazing number of interesting people you normally would not get the opportunity to know,” she said.

The 13-year island resident and mother of two young daughters is not sure what’s next for her, but it seemed that after a half dozen years of public service, it was a good time to move on.

“I thought six years was probably good and that there’s a lot of people on Bainbridge that could do it while I do something different,” she said.

“Something different” could include a variety of fairly mundane things – such as sleeping, cleaning, organizing and exercising, she said, all activities that have fallen by the wayside under a 30-hour council workweek. Or she could do something truly different.

“I might write a book,” she said. “I’m cleaning out my (council) files but I’m keeping some of the highlights because I might do a funny book someday. There’s a lot of entertaining stories that could be told. The roundabout, I think, might make a nice chapter.”

Another events that might make it into the book are the slightly trying times of a mom-turned-public official.

“Every place they recognize you, and I was always getting stopped and talking to people – which is the way it should be,” she said. “But you always have to have this high-level of energy to deal with a low-level of stress. It was only a few times that people yelled at me in public and only one of the times in the presence of one of my girls. That happened, with my daughter in the cart, at the fish department at T&C over, I think, some neighborhood issue.”

But those few instances were an exception to the rule.

“I know it sounds cliché, but being involved in the City Council is the one time in my life where, if you wish that something could happen you’re actually in the place to make it happen,” she said. “I’m really going to miss that.”

Rolfes said she’s brushing up her old resume from the days she used to work on Russian trade issues for the federal Agency for International Development but is in no particular rush to take on a new full-time gig.

“Right now, I just want to clean out my office and and get some sleep,” she said.

But before nodding off, Rolfes wanted to make sure she conveyed one more message directly to the island’s residents.

“Oh, wait, I want to say one more thing,” she said. “Thank you Bainbridge, for the opportunity and for trusting me.”

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