Margaret Pageler - Leadership in water and environmental sustainability
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Margaret Pageler's Biography
  Margaret practices giving speeches
  A young Margaret practices making speeches

My commitment to local government grows out of my childhood in rural China. Born to missionary parents during war time, I grew up in towns without electricity, running water, or sewage treatment. Families had lots of babies because few could be expected to survive the ravages of dysentery and epidemic disease.

We traveled many miles by rickshaw or horse cart to reach railways or a road that a jeep could handle. But I remember several years when the railroads had all been bombed and another year when horse carts were turned into rafts because the roads were flooded.

Margaret's parents and brother
Baby Margaret with her parents and brother

So I value the century of investment in public infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. I appreciate the sanitation systems, public health services and utilities we take for granted. And I'm grateful to past city officials who built a strong foundation for Seattle.

My China childhood also gave me a love for Washington state. When we got letters from Grandma in Yakima or Aunt Virginia in the little house at 94th and Roosevelt, I imagined the beautiful Pacific Northwest where my parents were raised. And the home-made applets Grandma sent each Christmas were delicious even if they took a month to arrive by ship and horse cart.

Margaret teaching
Teaching in a
public school

And my childhood in China gave me an abiding appreciation for the Chinese culture, art and history — and ultimately, a love for the richness of ethnic backgrounds that contribute so much to our Seattle experience.

I lived in China and then Taiwan during the turbulent years of the civil war, Communist revolution and the Chiang Kai Shek resettlement in Taiwan. Coming back to America as a teenager, I earned my BA at Wheaton College in Illinois, then taught junior high for a few years while my husband, Jack, earned his doctorate. We settled in suburban Illinois where Jack taught college.

During the '70's I was a stay-at-home mom with four babies and the usual menagerie of dogs, cats, gerbils and the occasional garter snake. I served two terms on the school board of the fastest-growing school district in Illinois. We built ten schools in six years and worked hard reforming the curriculum to eliminate race and sex stereotyping. I chaired the board for the regional special education consortium, earned two graduate degrees — MS in Education Administration and then a law degree from the University of Chicago — and became an advocate for women's rights through NOW and our district Democratic organization. I learned that a politically-effective woman needs to be a no-nonsense problem-solver.

Pageler kids in the tub
The young Pageler children
when they all fit in one tub

In 1981 we brought the family to Seattle. Our Illinois suburb was too homogeneous for raising kids, and I was delighted to move to Seattle's Lakewood/Seward Park neighborhood where we continue to make our home. Our kids all graduated from Franklin High School, developing a love for the vitality and richness of a community that embraces Lao, Samoan, Hispanic, African American, Filipino, Ethiopian - indeed - the full range of world heritages.

During the '80's I practiced law at the Stoel Rives law firm. I served on the boards of Allied Arts, Vision Seattle, the Metropolitan Democratic Club, Thousand Friends of Washington and the Committee to Save Franklin High School. Historic preservation, growth management, a strong arts community and protection for the environment were my key civic concerns.

The whole Pageler clan
The Pageler clan at Meg's November 2007 wedding

So why did I run for City Council? I believe America is as strong as its cities and towns. Local governments provide the framework for America's families and businesses. My job as Councilmember for twelve years was to ensure the stable core services that enable Seattle's families and businesses to thrive. I was responsible for basic environmental and health protections, basic infrastructure such as power and water, basic crime protection and community planning.

I continue to serve the Seattle region as a member of the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, where I work as an administrative law judge to ensure that local governments follow the sustainable principles of our state's Growth Management Act.

Margaret speaking at the 2007 UCLG conference
Still making speeches

It's clear to me that local governments are the front line of responsible stewardship for our challenged world. I'm privileged to be an executive committee member of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability – an international association of cities that demonstrate best practices in environmental management. ICLEI cities provide world leadership in pragmatic programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently I won a seat on the Board of Governors of the World Water Council. The World Water Council brings the professional water community together with United Nations agencies, national government leaders, and international charity organizations to create political momentum around solving critical water issues. My role is to ensure that the voices of city leaders are a part of that dialogue.

Margaret Pageler.

Margaret Pageler