Longtime Councilmember Ruth Ross steps aside for next generation of civic leaders

Ruth Ross

After nearly two decades serving on the Lynnwood City Council, Ruth Ross said she’s ready to step aside and allow the next generation to take over.

Ross was first elected to the council’s Position 3 seat in 2001. She served on the council until 2009, when she lost her reelection bid for the Position 3 seat to former City Councilmember Kerri Lonergan-Dreke in 2009. She was reelected to the council in 2014, defeating Douglas Lovitt.

Last year, Ross said she would not be seeking another term. On Nov. 2, 53% of Lynnwood voters elected first-time candidate Joshua Binda to the Position 3 seat.

Ross moved to Lynnwood in 1995 and began working as a code compliance officer for the city. She said she ran for office to bring the perspective of a Lynnwood employee to the council.

“They just didn’t have any idea what it was like to work for the city,” she said.

During her tenure, Ross served as council president for one term and council vice president for three terms. As a council member, Ross advocated for bringing different housing types to Lynnwood, which she said has always prioritized single-family housing. Ross said the council has always prioritized “big homes on big lots” and not enough has been done to create more multi-family housing options for residents.

“We have a responsibility to regulate housing and encourage all types of housing in this city, not just single-family (homes),” she said.

Ross also said she aimed to prioritize diversity in Lynnwood. One of her first acts as a newly elected council member, she said, was proposing that the city declare Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in Lynnwood. Now, the council meets the Tuesday after the holiday. 

Over the years, Ross has also worked behind the scenes to contribute to Lynnwood in other ways. For example, Gold’s Park was established after she encouraged the anthropology department at Edmonds College (formerly Edmonds Community College) to adopt the park, which was purchased by the city from the Gold family in 1997.

Additionally, Ross came up with the idea to celebrate Lynnwood’s “Big Hair and Blue Eyeshadow” tradition from the 1980-1990s on one of the city’s ongoing art projects for traffic signal boxes. She also championed redevelopment of the Lynnwood Recreation Center. Typically, Ross said she doesn’t look for credit but said she was proud of those efforts.

“I was very proud,” she said.

During her time away from the council, Ross completed a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Bellevue (Nebraska) and rejoined the city’s Arts Commission. She also published a trilogy of mystery novels.

Now, she is prepared to step aside and allow the next generation to assume leadership roles, which is fitting since her seat is being filled by Binda – a 22-year-old whose parents immigrated to America when he was a child after winning a green card lottery in Liberia.

“At my age, it’s time for us to start being mentors instead of trying to be in charge,” she said. “So, for me that decision was easy.”

According to Ross, incoming councilmembers should seek out as much information about their job so they are able to serve Lynnwood residents to the best of their abilities. She also advised new councilmembers to not let the position go to their head.

“Ninety percent of the people in this city don’t know who you are,” she said. “Try to do right by them and that’s all you can do.”

–By Cody Sexton

  1. Council Member Ross brought to the City Council what McGregor pinned for corporate America – “The Human Side of Enterprise”. She understood the needs infrastructure; however, Ms. Ross had compassion for and dedicated her service to the people side of governance. We all support the needs for roads, traffic management, clean water, business and construction permits, etc. It takes a special council member who possesses the values, passion, and desire to understand and support solutions for the human – physical, social, and emotional – needs of our residents and visitors. Ms. Ross’ decision to step aside for the next generation of Lynnwood civic leaders exemplifies her devotion to the future of the City of Lynnwood.

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