Election 2011: Meet Debbie Bertlin, Running for Mercer Island City Council, Position 7

In her own words, City Council candidate Debbie Bertlin answered Patch's candidate questionnaire.

Debbie Bertlin


Web site: electdebbiebertlin.org

Email address: Debbie.bertlin@gmail.com


What is your full, legal name?

Deborah Lloyd Bertlin

Where do you work and what is your job title?

Avanade, Director Business Operations

Where do you live now and how long have you lived there?

2435 72 Ave SE neighborhood), Mercer Island. I moved here as a child in 1974 and attended , South Mercer Junior High and graduated from in 1982. I returned to the Island as a single professional in 1999 and bought the house in November 1999. I have resided in this house since then with the exception of a 22 month stint when my husband and I lived in Singapore (July 2003-April 2005).

Spouse or domestic partner if any?

Brian A. Bertlin


Anna, 6 and Elizabeth, 4

Education (include graduation date(s), if any):

Mercer Island High School 1982; Stanford University, BA and MA 1987; University of Sussex, MPhil 1989, funded by

Memberships and affiliations with clubs and other organizations:

, , 

Have you or a business you owned (or had principal interest in) ever filed bankruptcy?


As an adult, have you been convicted or charged with a crime other than a minor traffic violation?



Elected: None

Other campaigns for public office:  None


What is the primary reason you are running for this office?

  • I am a proud and committed Islander bringing a fresh, relevant voice to . I bring leadership with a vision and the integrity of one who understands the multi-faceted needs of the Island.
  • I recognize and embrace the multi-generational nature of our community. I will serve as a voice which hears and acts on behalf of all.
  • As a mother of two daughters, I want our youth to have strong role models and to understand that bringing about change means to actively participate and lead.
  • There must be a dialogue this campaign season. As the only challenger for City Council I plan to ensure important topics are raised, discussed and debated.  Islanders need the opportunity to express their views and perspectives.

If elected I will work toward building better mechanisms to create and sustain open dialogue between the Council, City and community.

What will be your top three priorities if you get elected and why?

  1. Judicious financial management of the City’s limited resources. The Island will increasingly feel the impact of the nation’s challenging fiscal position. In particular, funding will become increasingly limited for schools, social services, and safety infrastructure. I bring professional experience grounded in bringing a comprehensive approach to managing priorities under stringent budgetary conditions.  
    As one unified taxing district the City must deepen its partnership with the and other community organizations. I will focus on optimizing potential City-School District shared expenditures such as re-building facilities, , and in a fiscally responsible and self-sustaining manner. The City and District should continue and possibly deepening the City’s support for school-based counselors. Current community assets such as , and preschools reside on School District property. These schools have been on the Island for 40+ years operating as small businesses and providing critical community service; we must work to facilitate new homes.  
    The City and School District must aggressively, prudently plan and execute together to build and preserve critical community infrastructure. I will bring this leadership if elected.
  2. Proactive and preventive approach to public safety.  
    The primary responsibility of the City is to ensure public safety. Rather than waiting for events to dictate action, I will take a proactive approach to ensure Island security and safety. Island response agencies must be equipped with technology to enable them to communicate and cooperate in times of natural disaster. I will work with and  officials, neighborhoods, schools, and social and faith gathering places to ensure they are disaster prepared.  
    We must revisit the infrastructure around our roadways to ensure pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists may safely travel the Island, particularly on . Our south end fire station is in need of substantial repair. A passive approach and “good enough” attitude are not sufficient. I will address these issues aggressively, within the parameters of our financial abilities, ensuring critical core services are delivered with excellence.
  3. Re-build our community’s confidence in the professionalism, integrity and transparency of our municipal government.  
    The recent is a political embarrassment to our residents and our City staff and a tremendous financial drain on limited financial assets which should provide community services. In February, the City had to bring in a professional mediator to work with Council to improve its ability to cooperatively and effectively communicate amongst themselves and with the community. These examples exemplify the current problems Council has with effectiveness, teamwork and perceived integrity. This Council needs change.  
    My professional experience and international work have required that I promote and maintain the highest level of fiscal and moral professionalism, collaboration, and effectiveness. I have worked with many governments including those of South Africa, Poland, and Thailand in developing programs to build educational curriculum, accelerate economic development and improve citizen services. Throughout my career I have had to adapt and balance diverse interests with limited financial resources. Our current city government has lost its responsiveness. I will bring new sensitivities, flexibility and tolerance to the Council. 

What sets you apart from the other candidates and/or previous office holders?

Unlike my opponent, I understand and experience daily the diverse needs and interests of Mercer Island residents — from pre-schoolers to youth, wage earners to contributing seniors. I have an unblemished public and professional track record of consensus building and leadership that delivers results. I recognize and proactively address issues that affect our quality of life. I am highly energetic, deeply committed, unwaveringly respectful, and unquestionably effective.

Specifically, I bring:

  • An extensive personal and professional resume reflecting true leadership capabilities, deep financial management experience, consistent excellence in effectively delivering results, and the ability to work with, diverse groups, cross-culturally and cross generationally.
  • My professional career includes managing teams of 100+ people, across borders, and being responsible for tens-of-millions of dollars. As one of two senior women in the Europe/Middle East/Africa management circles at Microsoft, I was recognized for accepting the most difficult assignments, achieving and beating financial metrics, strategic thinking and effectively implementing change.
  • An uncompromising commitment to improving the Island’s safety infrastructure. Motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists need to be able to move safely about the Island. We need to ensure our public safety organizations have the means to secure our well-being under standard conditions and in times of crisis. I take a proactive and preventive approach.
  • As a single working professional, I saw the safety issues and need for a walkway on 72nd Ave SE. Within one year I achieved neighborhood cooperation and effectively petitioned and lobbied City Council to create a safe pedestrian and cycle path — within the project plan of a larger infrastructure project. Safety was improved for children, walkers, and seniors. The budget was minimally impacted with the overall safety of the neighborhood significantly improved.
  • In 2009, as the mother of young children and friend to many others, I re-certified as a Red Cross lifeguard. I wanted to ensure that when at our beaches, our parks and broadly in our community I was able and qualified to address crisis situations.
  • An understanding and appreciation of the multi-generational nature of our Island. I provide a critical, relevant and broader understanding of the services we need to deliver to youth, parents, and seniors. As a mother and daughter of current and past Islanders, the full spectrum of needs is always forefront.
  • I project-led the design and implementation of the toddler play space at Luther Burbank. The idea was born from a resident grandmother needing both a senior and toddler safe play area. The idea grew to accommodate not just seniors and less physically able care-givers, but also children with physical limitations (see this article by Jim Pearman, published Aug. 5, 2009 in the ).
  • As Chair of the Open Space Conservancy Trust, I look to see how we may ensure its relevance to children, youth, adults and seniors. When discussing maintenance and enhancements I ensure all demographics are addressed. 
  • In working on the City task force reviewing our aquatics facilities, forefront in my mind was addressing the needs of young families, exercising adults, high school teens and seniors. 
  • A profound recognition that we are stewards of the Island’s unique and vulnerable natural resources/assets.
  • As Chair of the Open Space Conservancy Trust, I bring both fiscal prudence and commitment to the environmental needs of and the lands. In the first month of my taking the chair, we conducted a full review of our 2 year budget – ensuring our priorities mapped to our financial resources.
  • A commitment to fighting actively for Island-wide transportation issues, with a deep understanding as to how it will impact the livability and economic future of the Island.
  • We face the very real potential of tolling on I-90. I will fight for the unique needs of the Island. We have no choice but to use I-90 to access critical services and places of employment. We have a significant population with fixed income who would be disproportionately impacted. We currently have a highly qualified and committed work force that should not be financially penalized by their location of employment. I understand that potentially, tolling could significantly impact our quality of life and I will aggressively pursue our needs and interests.
  • As a youth, my sense of independence and adventure were built taking the bus off-Island to Seattle, to Bellevue and beyond. As a working adult, the bus is my constant source of transportation. My children take the bus with me, my husband, and my parents to downtown events; we attend concerts and sporting activities via public transportation. I see University of Washington staff and students on the bus, medical workers travelling to our hospitals and staff for our Island businesses on the bus. It is imperative we maintain existing services.
  • Light rail is coming to the Seattle area and it will impact Mercer Island. Foremost, we must ensure our residents can access it — with sufficient parking facilities and south-north commute options. We must ensure our access on and off I-90 is preserved. We must anticipate the impact on north end businesses and traffic.

How much money do you expect your campaign to spend on this election?

I choose not to disclose at this time.

Official endorsements:

The latest list of endorsements may be found on the campaign website www.electdebbiebertlin.org.  The list of names and organizations is constantly growing.

Key endorsements include:

  • Elliot Newman, former mayor of Mercer Island
  • Bruce Bassett, current City Council member
  • Dan Grausz, current City Council member
  • Marguerite Southerland, former City Council member
  • Ken Glass, former School Board member
  • Pat Braman, current President Mercer Island School Board, past president of Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce
  • King County Conservation Voters


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