Satterstrom keeps finger on the city’s pulse

When Fred Satterstrom attended his 40-year reunion for the Kent-Meridian class of 1967 last September, classmates gave him plenty of positive feedback about the City of Kent.

Fred Satterstrom

When Fred Satterstrom attended his 40-year reunion for the Kent-Meridian class of 1967 last September, classmates gave him plenty of positive feedback about the City of Kent.

Many of them knew Satterstrom worked for the city. He is in his seventh year as the community development director. But he has worked for the city since 1982, when he received a 44-day contract to do an study on the commercial viability of agricultural land in Kent.

“They said they were proud to be from Kent now because of Kent Station and the events center being built,” Satterstrom said Wednesday from his third-floor office in the Centennial Building next to City Hall. “They now have bragging rights about Kent because now it has positive aspects. I don’t think they were just placating me.”

Satterstrom, 59, has watched Kent change a lot since he moved here at age 12 in the early 1960s, and since he started work for the city 26 years ago. As a special projects planner, city planner and now as community-development director, Satterstrom sees proposed changes before most people. He has a staff of 42 employees who work in the city’s permit center, its building-services division and planning-services division.

“We’re very much involved in the long-range comprehensive planning required by the Growth Management Act,” Satterstrom said, of the act adopted by the Washington Legislature in 1990, as a way to help protect natural-resource lands and outline regions for future urban growth. “We develop codes and ordinances for zoning and administer that through code enforcement.”

Lately, the biggest challenge for Satterstrom and his staff has been keeping up with the building boom in Kent. Three of the four largest building years in Kent were in 2005, 2006 and 2007 based on the number of permits and value of construction. That value reached more than $600 million over the last three years.

“That’s a reflection of a strong housing market and commercial market,” Satterstrom said. “Kent Station (the popular retail area which opened in 2005 in the Kent Valley) was only a fraction of that.”

With those changes, Kent has started to take on a much different look than it had in its early, agricultural days.

“We’re in transition from a suburban area to a growing urban area,” said Satterstrom, who has a masters degree in urban planning from the University of Washington. “Twenty years ago, we went from rural to suburban.”

John Hodgson, Kent’s chief administrative officer, has known Satterstrom for 14 years and has watched him work to help handle Kent’s population and construction boom.

“He’s very committed and dedicated to the city of Kent,” Hodgson said. “He’s really keen on how it develops. He has a passion for downtown and cares a lot about its redevelopment, but he’s committed to the entire community.”

Sixteen years ago, then-Kent Mayor Dan Kelleher appointed Satterstrom to the newly formed Kent Downtown Partnership board. Satterstrom just retired from the board Tuesday, but still plans to stay active with the events and activities of the partnership. KDP is a nonprofit, private group dedicated to the economic well-being of Kent’s core downtown area.

“A lot of cities give up on downtown when suburban malls go in,” Satterstrom said, of his commitment which mirrors the city’s, to the downtown. “This city has not given up on downtown.”

Commitment to issues aside, Satterstrom gets high marks from his co-workers for another asset — the ability to make people laugh.

When asked to describe Satterstrom’s personality, Hodgson said he has an incredible sense of humor that comes out once people get to know him.

Satterstrom shared a bit of that humor Wednesday when he talked about spending the first 12 years of his life in Minnesota before his family moved to Kent.

“I milked cows in the morning and would go to school smelling like a barn,” the city official said. “The girls were not too flattered about the kid who smelled like a barn.”

Outside of work, Satterstrom, who lives with wife Nancy in unincorporated Kent, enjoys fly fishing in Oregon and British Columbia. He just recently returned from a fishing trip to Bend, Ore. He also likes to garden, and collect Civil War revenue stamps from the 1860s.

“One day when I retire, I’ll go on eBay and sell them,” Satterstrom said. “But I’m a collector now.”

Satterstrom and his wife have three children, Kyle, 26, who is working on a graduate degree in bioengineering from Harvard; Kirsti, 23, who is a television reporter in Kennewick; and Kenna, a graduate last month of Kentridge High School, and who will attend the University of Colorado.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or

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