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Councilwoman ready to contribute to Snoqualmie

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SNOQUALMIE - When Maria Henriksen and her husband visited Snoqualmie in 1998, they knew they were in trouble.

The two were living in Issaquah, but after they visited Snoqualmie on a beautiful day, the Henriksens knew they had to pack up their family and move to the Valley.

Now Henriksen is a Snoqualmie City Councilwoman, a position she took in order to give the community the 110 percent she gives to everything she loves.

"It was natural to be an advocate for the city," she said.

Henriksen grew up in Spokane and headed to the University of Washington for college. She studied international business and went to work at the school after graduation in addition to pursuing a master's degree. In the little free time she had, Henriksen did international recruiting for Microsoft Corp.

Mixing work and school was a flurry of activity, but it was exactly what Henriksen wanted. When Microsoft offered her a job, she left school and went to work, where she got to travel all over Europe.

"I love languages and learning about new cultures," Henriksen said. "This kind of opportunity doesn't come up often."

The last international recruit she got for Microsoft was a Danish man named Peter Henriksen. They became a couple, married and moved to Seattle. When they decided to start a family, the Henriksens moved to the Eastside.

One afternoon Peter's father was in town visiting from Denmark and told the Henriksens he wanted to see how Americans lived. Everyone piled in the car and headed to Snoqualmie, an area Henriksen was mildly familiar with as it was a stop her family used to take on the way to Seattle when she was growing up. When the family entered Snoqualmie, Henriksen saw everything she loved about growing up in Spokane, a small town with a traditional aesthetic feel that was also close to a major city. After touring the town more and seeing the new Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood development, the Henriksens were resolved to move and became Valley residents in January 1999.

Henriksen had left work after the birth of her first son and was looking to get involved in the city in which her children were going to be raised. She was appointed to the Snoqualmie Parks Board and found her business and administrative background were assets to the city. Henriksen would eventually be appointed to lead the board and learned more about how it was affected by other administrative functions of the city.

"I learned it's [the city and its boards and committees] all inter-related," she said.

When Councilman Jay Rodne left earlier this year to become a legislator in Olympia, Henriksen was prodded by community members to run for the vacant position. She was uncertain at first and mulled it over for awhile, but became convinced it was a civic duty she was not only equipped to do, but should do. She put her name on a list of 10 possible candidates and was appointed with a unanimous vote from the City Council last month.

Henriksen took her seat on the City Council at a time of transition. With Rodne leaving and two new council members taking office at the beginning of the year, a majority of the City Council had less than just a couple months of experience. Moreover, the Council was on the tail-end of the deliberations for the massive development Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II (SRII), a process it had hoped to wrap up before it appointed Henriksen but needed to delay until last week.

Henriksen said she never had a doubt, however, about what she or the other new council members could do. She had followed the SRII deliberations as a parks board member and got up to speed in time for the final deliberations and the vote last week.

"This group of council members is so bright and the staff is terrific," Henriksen said. "It [learning about the progress made on the SRII deliberations] wasn't as hard as I thought it would be."

With the rest of Rodne's term ahead of her until the end of 2005, Henriksen said she is resolved to see through the implementation of all the hard work she and previous council members put together for SRII, especially the parks and maintaining the aesthetic feel of the city that drew her family to Snoqualmie.

"We need to maintain the historical character of the downtown, which is the core of the city," she said.

The financial standing of the city will also be a key charge Henriksen will take up. Along with Councilman Nate Short, Henriksen will be working on a committee to encourage economic growth in Snoqualmie with increased vitality in the city's business district.

She will pay close attention to the city budget. Anti-tax initiatives have curbed city finances, but Henriksen said that is not altogether bad and Snoqualmie is actually doing better than a lot of cities. She said Snoqualmie will just have to explain to the public the expenses of doing city business in a way that leaves no doubt to their necessity.

"We need to articulate all of our expenditures and taxes," Henriksen said.

Her history of public service has shown her nothing will be done easily, but she has also seen the democratic system work when everyone moves forward to serve the city they love.

"We are not always going to agree, but everybody has their heart in the same place," she said.

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