12-2018 In Memoriam

In Memoriam – Eric R. Shields -- 1953-2018

Eric Shields, AICP, long-time Kirkland Planning Director and resident, passed away in late November after a courageous multi-year battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Deborah, daughters Caitlyn and Emily, son-in-law Mads, and two grandchildren.  His work family at the City of Kirkland and dozens of friends and colleagues who knew and worked with Eric over the years were fortunate to be able to visit with him in the weeks before his passing.

Eric received his Master of Urban Planning degree from the University of Washington and Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from the University of Oregon.   He began as an intern in Kirkland in 1977 and came on staff as a planner soon after. After a three-year stint with the City of Des Moines, Eric returned to Kirkland in 1992 to become the director of planning.

During the two and a half decades of his leadership as its Planning Director, the city doubled in population from 44,000 to 88,000, its downtown grew into a walkable urban jewel on Lake Washington, and Kirkland’s reputation grew as a model for smart, well-planned growth. Eric was an exemplary leader of his staff, modeling and nurturing an organizational culture of excellence, respect, innovation, and accomplishment. Kurt Triplett, the Kirkland City Manager, said “Eric’s legacy is that his vision made Kirkland the green, livable, walkable community that we all love. The City is incredibly grateful for Eric’s decades of dedication to this community, for his leadership as planning director and for the kind and the compassionate approach he brought to his work and his colleagues.”

Eric was also a leader among his planning director peers in King County, known for his ability to communicate the value of planning and key planning concepts to citizens and elected officials and to communicate those ideas beyond the boundaries of the City of Kirkland. Eric is well remembered for his skill at writing and editing proposed planning policies until they were lean, clear, and vividly conveyed the core meaning. He successfully applied these skills not only to Kirkland but also to the work of the King County Inter-Jurisdictional Team, the PSRC Regional Staff Committee, and the Washington State Planning Directors.    “Eric Shields was one of the smartest and most effective planners I ever knew,” said long-time friend and colleague Joe Tovar. “He was kind, compassionate, resilient and brave. Eric was a true servant-leader. We are all blessed to have known him.”

Return to the November/December issue of The Washington Planner