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April 2014

"Quiet Statesman" who "Leads with Kindness"

Named 2014 Seattle-King County First Citizen

April 2014 - NWREporter

Broadcasting, banking, academia and politics are part of this retiring CEO's career, but it is "the values he carries in his heart" that help distinguish him. To honor decades of service and devotion to the quality of life in the region, Norman B. Rice has been named the 2014 recipient of Seattle-King County First Citizen Award.

Norm Rice

Rice, the retiring CEO and president of The Seattle Foundation and a former mayor of Seattle, has a legacy of "firsts" plus legions of admirers from both his private and public sector positions. He will be honored as the 76th recipient of the prestigious First Citizen Award at a civic banquet in June.

Rice joins an elite group of honorees - including his wife -- who have been singled out for the annual award and celebration of community leadership, volunteerism and civic engagement that enhances the region's quality of life. The banquet is a not-for-profit event presented by SEATTLE KingCounty REALTORS®.

Colleagues from various aspects of Rice's life praise this year's honoree for his aptitude in "stimulating new ideas and promoting effective strategies," as well as for his "warmth, humanity and humor." He "leads with his heart," said his wife of 41 years, Constance W. Rice, Ph.D. Known as a tireless activist and civic volunteer, Dr. Rice was honored as the 1993 First Citizen.

"Norman Rice is a remarkable leader who has served this community superbly in many roles," said civic volunteer Bob Watt. Commenting on Rice's selection as the newest First Citizen, Watt added, "His willingness to lead on tough issues while never losing sight of the social equity and environmental stewardship values he carries in his heart is an amazing demonstration of love translated into action."

During his two-term tenure as mayor of Seattle (1990 to 1997), Rice drew praise as a consensus builder and peacemaker, eventually acquiring the nickname "Mayor Nice."

Before beginning a 19-year stint in elective office, starting with the Seattle City Council in 1978, Rice managed corporate contributions and social policy at Rainier National Bank.

"When Norman first came to work at Rainier National Bank, it soon became clear that he was an individual who would be moving into positions of greater authority and responsibility," recalled John Mangels, retired CEO of that bank.

Mangels admitted it was disappointing when Rice announced plans to leave the bank to run for office, but noted, "It wasn't long before he was recognized for his abilities and practical approach to issues, his sound judgment, integrity, and his ability to bring together people of differing views and aims. These qualities were among many that made Norman such a successful mayor and brought him widespread approval and recognition, locally, regionally and nationally."

Commenting on the selection of Rice as "First Citizen," Mangels also stated "In the long run, Rainier Bank's loss brought even greater rewards for our community and its citizens. Norman's efforts since leaving public life have continued to enhance his positive influence on those around him. I am proud to call him my friend."

"No one deserves the recognition of being named Seattle's First Citizen more than Norm Rice," exclaimed Martha Choe, CAO at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In elaborating, she said few leaders in the community "are as beloved as Norm Rice because of what he's done to improve the lives of so many people in our community. The values of social equity, economic opportunity and love of his community have guided Norm in everything he has done. His warmth, humanity and humor make people feel special and convey a deep, genuine caring."

Choe also commented on Rice's legacy: "Everywhere you look, you can see Norm's legacy, from the leaders he's mentored, to the vibrant and electric urban core he helped rescue, to a city that understands and values diversity, to those who are gainfully employed and able to provide a future for themselves, their families and their community."

As mayor, Rice received national acclaim for revitalizing Seattle's downtown and strengthening city neighborhoods through public-private partnerships. Among achievements while in office, he advocated for an improved public school system. A citywide education summit he convened is credited with helping pass a $69 million levy for the Seattle Public School District (since renamed and renewed as the Families and Education Levy). He is also praised for rejuvenating retail districts, housing and civic buildings, and implementing a model welfare-to-work program.  

From 1995 to 1996, Rice served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the official nonpartisan organization of the country's largest cities. He was the first mayor from Seattle to serve in that position since the group's formation in 1933. Another "first" for this year's First Citizen was his 1989 election as Seattle's first African-American mayor.

Following his second term as mayor, he joined the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, serving as its top executive from 1998 to 2004. In that position, he worked with more than 375 financial institutions and brought his passion and commitment for housing and community development to the private sector.

In 2006, Rice became a distinguished practitioner-in-residence at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, his alma mater. He joined The Seattle Foundation (one of the nation's largest community philanthropic organizations) in mid-2009. His achievements while there include the launch of GiveBIG, the highly successful day-long online giving campaign that has raised more than $25 million for King County nonprofits in the last three years. Under his leadership and quest to build healthy communities, the Foundation also created a Center for Community Partnerships. Its goal is to advance collaborative, systemic change to achieve greater economic and racial equity in King County.

As a child, Rice once expected to become a minister. Instead, his calling became public and community service. Early in his career, he was a broadcast reporter and then worked at the Seattle Urban League and the Puget Sound Council of Governments.

This year's First Citizen sometimes refers to himself as "cautious Norm," but acknowledges a few failures during his 40-years of service to the region and nation, including a couple of unsuccessful political campaigns, and a business setback. Reflecting on those during an interview with The Seattle Times, he said making mistakes is OK, but added, "It's how you handle yourself afterward that matters." You don't penalize failure, he suggested, you penalize blindness to what went wrong.

Among numerous community service activities, Rice has served on several nonprofit boards, including Casey Family Programs, the Enterprise Community Partners, the 5th Avenue Theatre, HistoryLink, the King County Committee to End Homelessness, Northwest African-American Museum, United Way of King County, Washington STEM, Year Up and the YMCA of Greater Seattle. He and his wife chaired United Way's campaign in 2006. The couple also led a fundraising drive in 1999 for First Place, surpassing the goal by more than a half-million dollars.

The First Citizen Award is the latest in a number of professional and community recognitions given to Rice for leadership, contributions to advancing human rights, and other achievements.

Rice holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Washington, and received honorary doctorates from Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle University, University of Puget Sound and Whitman College.

The announcement of his intention to retire from The Seattle Foundation prompted an editorial writer at The Seattle Times to state, "Rare is the public leader who manages to be highly effective and well-regarded. Rice has been both."

Although retiring from his CEO position, Rice, 70, expects to remain active in his commitment to foster the development of vibrant, diverse, self-sustaining communities through service on some boards and committees.

Past First Citizens

1939     Richard Eugene Fuller
1940     Dr. Wendell Fiield
1941     William O. McKay
1942     Kenneth Colman
1943     Phil Johnson
1944     Children's Orthopedic Hospital
1945     W. Walter Williams
1946     Royal Brougham
1947     John H. Reid
1948     Ernest Skeel
1949     Dr. Raymond Allen
1950     Thomas M. Pelly
1951     George Gunn, Jr.
1952     Henry Broderick
1953     Frank E. Holman
1954     William M. Allen
1955     Deitrich Schmitz
1956     Rev. A.A. Lemieux
1957     Gordon N. Scott
1958     Nat S. Rogers
1959     Mrs. A. Scott Bullitt
1960     Michael Dederer
1961     Ben E. Ehrlichman
1962     Joseph E. Gandy
1963     George F. Kachlein, Jr.
1964     H.W. McCurdy
1965     Edward E. Carlson
1966     Milton Katims
1967     Mrs. Henry B. Owen
1968     James R. Ellis
1969     William B. Woods
1970     Norton Clapp
1971     Glynn Ross
1972     John D. Ehrlichman
1973     Dr. Dixy Lee Ray
1974     Ned and Kayla Skinner
1975     Dr. Wm. B. Hutchinson
1976     Rabbi Raphael Levine
1977     W.J. "Jerry" Pennington
1978     John M. Fluke
1979     Gordon H. Sweaney
1980     James M. Ryan
1981     C.M. "Mike" Berry
1982     Dr. Dale E. Turner
1983     T.A. Wilson
1984     Victor Rosellini
1985     Fredric A. Danz
1986     Robert W. Graham
1987     John W. Ellis
1988     Samuel Stroum
1989     R.C. "Torchy" Torrance
1990     The Rev. Wm. J. Sullivan, S.J.
1991     Buster and Nancy Alvord
1992     Lester R. Sauvage, M.D.
1993     Constance W. Rice, Ph.D.
1994     Phil M. Smart, Sr.
1995     Mary Gates & Family
1996     Stanley O. McNaughton
1997     Walter B. Williams
1998     Jack A. Benaroya
1999     Paul Brainerd
2000     The Bullitt Family
2001     Herb M. Bridge
2002     Scott and Laurie Oki
2003     Dan and Nancy Evans
2004     The McCaw Family
2005     Jeffrey and Susan Brotman
2006     Dale Chihuly
2007     James and Sherry Raisbeck
2008     Paul G. Allen
2009     Gerard Schwarz
2010     Hon. Slade Gorton
2011     Jamie and Karen Moyer
2012     Rotary International Dist. 5030
2013     Lenny Wilkens

About the First Citizen Award and Banquet

Since its inception in 1939, the First Citizen Award continues to celebrate community leadership, volunteerism and public service. Past recipients hail from humanitarian organizations, charitable, health and educational institutions, arts groups, environmental causes and various civic endeavors.

The Seattle-King County First Citizen Award and civic banquet, believed to be this region's oldest such recognition, has no fund-raising expectation, but instead is designed solely as a not-for-profit celebration of community involvement.

Recent past recipients include Rotary International District 5030 (in 2012), former Seattle Mariner Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen (2011), U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (2010), retiring Seattle Symphony conductor Gerard Schwartz (2009), and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen (2008).

About the SEATTLE King County REALTORS®

First Citizen LogoThe SEATTLE KingCounty REALTORS® is a nonprofit professional trade association whose goals include promoting business practices that reflect a strict code of ethics and supporting policies that preserve and expand real property rights and housing affordability. Based in Bellevue, SKCR has more than 5,400 members and is one of 1,400 local associations of the National Association of REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.