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Rudolph retirement marks ‘end of an era’ in Poulsbo

POULSBO — When Dale Rudolph steps down from the Poulsbo City Council at the end of December, he’ll bring to close a 17-year council career and nearly 30 years of service between he and his father, former city councilman and interim mayor Curt Rudolph.

He “learned literally at the knee of his father,” said Councilman Ed Stern, who worked alongside Rudolph for 13 years and praised both men’s contributions.

“Really it’s the end of an era,” he said.

Since 1993 Rudolph has had a hand in guiding the City of Poulsbo, as it navigated the creation of the College Marketplace, the development of the Poulsbo Place neighborhood, several land annexations and a new city hall.

Rudolph announced his retirement earlier this year, and will travel, spend time with family and take part in leading the Poulsbo Historical Society after giving up elected office.

He spent his 17 years on council working to continue the influence of past leaders, including his father and former mayors Clyde Caldart and Frank Raab.

“They had no agenda. They were the city fathers,” Rudolph said. “That was my goal, to be like them, and I think we got there.”

Rudolph’s family moved to Poulsbo in 1958, after his father co-purchased the Poulsbo Bowl, a 12-lane bowling alley on State Route 305. Rudolph would clean lanes in the alley before school. He graduated from North Kitsap High in 1966 and studied engineering at the University of Washington.

Rudolph then built a long career at the Department of Defense. After retiring he worked as a contracted regional planner for the Navy.

When city planners began putting together Poulsbo’s first Comprehensive Plan, Rudolph took an interest. He attended meetings held by a citizen advisory committee, and was soon appointed to the committee when one of its members bowed out.

Months later he was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the council by then-Mayor Mitch Mitchusson, who worked closely with Rudolph’s father during his dozen years on the council.

“Mitch called me up and said, ‘It’s up to me now, so I’m picking you,’” Rudolph recalled. “He felt I was qualified and he knew the family. There’s no question in my mind that that had to be a factor in it.”

In his early years on council Rudolph worked with Stern to develop the city’s committee system, a handful of council groups that meet with department heads, staff and citizens in a roundtable format and discuss key issues and routine decisions in depth.

Rudolph said he considers the committee system, up to six committees today, one of the current council’s biggest successes.

“That’s where the work gets done,” he said.

Rudolph recalled highs and lows from his council career: Being hollered at by an upset citizen, welcoming residents to Poulsbo’s sweat equity neighborhoods, overseeing the development of Tenth Avenue and city streets and sidewalks.

Looking back, he is proud the council pushed forward the Olhava Master Plan, despite it being a seen as a threat to local businesses at the time. That commercial sector now provides the city significant revenue.

“The ability to influence the direction of your hometown, as a planning engineer especially, is an incredible opportunity,” Rudolph said.

He also commended the strength of the council and its members’ ability to aim above compromise, to search for solutions that work for everyone.

Former mayor Kathryn Quade recently shared a story reflecting that teamwork. She said she ruffled a few feathers — including Rudolph’s — when she began making changes after taking office in 2006.

“We got through it and everyone learned, and I think that’s what makes this city so successful,” she said.

Mayor Becky Erickson said she views Rudolph “as the glue of the council,” a leader who helped cement the governing body and unify its members.

City Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said Rudolph’s experience made him an instrumental part of the department, with a pragmatic perspective and knowledgeable foundation.

“I’ve never experienced the support and encouragement from an elected official like I have from Dale,” said Berezowsky. “He has a passion for good planning to make the community of Poulsbo as good of a community as it can be. And that was always what motivated him and I don’t think anything else motivated him.”

Rudolph applied his knowledge at a county and regional level too, working as part of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and Puget Sound Regional Council’s Growth Management Policy Board.

The past few years have been challenging and tiring, but Rudolph believes the city is in a good place and is comfortable stepping down, he said.

Berezowsky said Rudolph seemed to work toward an unspoken goal of leaving the city better than it was before he took leadership.

“And he certainly has done that,” he said.

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