With a Good Cause and a Good Reason

“Just go ahead! Go with your gut. Do it!’ So, that was the kind of person I was, and am…. When it’s a good cause and a good

reason . . . it just works. So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” – Sue Kienast

That’s a pretty solid philosophy, yes? Read more about this formidable proponent of the Bothell community and McMenamins Anderson School. Cheers, Sue.

Bothell Museum President. Historical Society President. City Councilwoman. In her more than 40 years living and working in Bothell, WA, Sue Kienast has held many titles, thanks in large part to an intrinsic desire to get things done and the self-reliance to make it happen.

Following her husband’s job offer from the Univer­sity of Washington, the pair arrived in Bothell in 1970, their four small children in tow. A frustrating six-month search for a new home reminiscent of the farmhouses the family was accus­tomed to in Wisconsin finally culminated in the discovery of a picturesque, if somewhat rundown, house on the top of Norway Hill. Flanked by two acres of forested land, the house was selected as an ideal location for the kids, though it would require some TLC to turn the 1906-era farmhouse into a home.

Armed with equal parts Midwestern can-do and youthful naiveté, the Kienast couple quickly got to work updating the house and, for better or worse, learning everything they would need to know along the way to repair the home’s ancient pipes, electrical wiring and structure. It was during this process that Sue’s interest in the home’s history was sparked. A short trip down the road to the Bothell Historical Museum provided Sue with more information about the house’s past. The quick visit would also lead to Sue’s “volunteering” to provide tours of her historic house.

A chance visit with Gladys Hannan Worley fueled the fire, as the older woman shared her own personal stories of the region’s history with the young Kienast. “Now I was hooked on history. Because I could actually talk to the people!”

And with that, Sue’s own 40-year Bothell story began. A couple years later, she would become the new President of the Bothell Historical Museum, a title she held until her retirement.

Driven by one simple question, “Why not?,” Sue often took on projects others feared to approach, from picking up and – much to the dismay of some local residents – from moving historic buildings to the new Park at Bothell Landing to fighting the encroaching development of local farmland into shopping malls in the late 1970s. The organization Sue helped create during this time, SAVE (Save a Valuable Environment), still operates today in the Bothell area, often questioning and sometimes appealing city council decisions about the region’s development.

Sue also served four years as City Councilwoman, where she would find herself fluctuating between periods of both invigoration and disillusionment. She quickly realized that her interests lay more solidly in a grassroots, outside-in approach to historical preservation and regional development. This is seen perhaps most clearly in the very first History of Bothell,  a book Sue says she and others “cut and pasted” together from the bits and pieces of history found in attics and under beds across town. The book was self-published with assistance from the Friends of the Bothell Library. Two additional books, the first consisting of articles submitted by Bothell residents and the second created by the Bothell Landmarks Board, another group Sue helped formed with fellow Councilwoman Pat Pierce, would follow over the next decade.

Ever a straight shooter and unintimidated by contro­versy, Sue has tirelessly dedicated her life and career to listening to, and then acting upon, what feels “right” for the community. In doing so, she has remained a fierce guardian and advocate for the preservation and protection of Bothell ’s history. She is also the per­son responsible for connecting McMenamins with Anderson School, alerting city officials to the work that McMenamins has done at other locations and recommending us as a candidate for renovating the school.

And for that, we thank her.

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