Byrnes joins Arlington City Council

Council member Linda Byrnes, left, is sworn in by city attorney Steve Peiffle during her first Council meeting Jan. 4. - Adam Rudnick
Council member Linda Byrnes, left, is sworn in by city attorney Steve Peiffle during her first Council meeting Jan. 4.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Linda Byrnes has spent nearly all of the past 30 years in the public eye.

Earlier this month the former Arlington School District superintendent began her latest stint in elected office as she officially joined the Arlington City Council.

“I served on the Lake Stevens City Council in the 1980s and really enjoyed it,” Byrnes said during an interview. “I told myself that I’d consider doing it again, but I wanted to wait until after my retirement.”

Byrnes was sworn onto the Council on Jan. 4 — approximately 18 months after retiring from her position as chief of Arlington schools.

Locally, Byrnes is arguably best known for serving 12 years as Arlington School District’s superintendent, although she did serve as assistant principal and principal for Lakewood High School during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Byrnes was appointed to the Arlington office in 1996, and helped the district pass a $54 million bond in March 2000. The bond allowed the district to build a new high school and auditorium, which was named the Linda M. Byrnes Performing Arts Center.

She retired in June 2008.

But after a year off, Byrnes said she wanted to make a run for the City Council. In June 2009, she filed for Graham Smith’s at-large position on the Council.

In November 2009 she defeated Smith, gathering 59 percent of the vote.

Byrnes said her decision to file for the position had nothing to do with how the city was operating — in fact, she said just the opposite.

As heads of their specific entities, Byrnes and Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson worked together on a number of city projects and programs, Byrnes said.

“I was impressed with the direction the city was going,” she said. “I’d like to work with Mayor Larson again.”

While Byrnes said she’s looking forward to working with the Council and city departments, she said she understands that 2010 will again be a difficult year financially for the city.

“I’ve dealt with budget issues my entire career and I’ve always been accountable to the public,” she said. “I’m hard-wired to do that.”

Byrnes said she did not run for the City Council for any specific issue, but said she would like to see the Council continue exploring partnerships with other agencies and organizations.

“I didn’t come in with some big issue,” she said. “I don’t shoot from the hip — I want to listen to other Council members. I would like to hear what they’re thinking, but I know that sometimes you have to step on some toes.”

During the Jan. 4 meeting, Byrnes was administered the city’s oath of office, which was read by city attorney Steve Peiffle.

Byrnes remained relatively quiet during the meeting as the Council approved its consent agenda and new business items. It wasn’t until near the end of the meeting that Byrnes addressed the Council.

During the Council member comments section, Byrnes said she was impressed by what the Council had done during the time period she had observed them.

She said she was also encouraged that she would be joining a Council that did its homework.

“Other Boards I’ve worked with in the past haven’t been as careful,” she said, adding that she had received a wonderful orientation to the city’s various departments.

Byrnes will serve a two-year term in her at-large Council position.

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