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Person Behind the Place: Emil King

July 9, 2024 - by Soumya Sahay

Emil King, Community Development Department Director
for the City of Bellevue

Person Behind The Place:
Emil King

Community Development Department Director | City of Bellevue

Emil King is no stranger to the Bellevue community - in fact, he has worked for the city for over 20 years now and has contributed his time, creativity and commitment to Bellevue since his first day in 2000.

This year, he has taken on a new role as Department Director of Community Development for the City of Bellevue, and we got the opportunity to speak to him about his upcoming plans in this new position - continue reading to see what King had to say.

What is the secret to the City of Bellevue that has kept you on board for all these years?

I love that Bellevue has a strong vision, especially when planning. That consistent vision of where the city wanted to go has been key in keeping me excited about working here.

I have previous experience working with other cities, and I do know a lot of folks who work for other government agencies around here, and it helps me reflect on my time with Bellevue. There’s great staff who work in Bellevue, and a variety of important projects that we are responsible for working on. It is a growing community, and we do want to expand - in my time here, we have annexed new areas, so we have grown our physical breadth of how big our city is, and we have grown a lot from development that has happened within the city as well.

How does your personal and professional experience in the Bellevue community help improve your work in this new role?

A lot of my work is looking six months to 30+ years into the future. As the department head, I'm bringing together the planning function we have in the department with the economic development and arts function, as well as the neighborhood services. I feel it's a great synergy to have a broader responsibility of all the functions that we have in the department based on my experience being the lead on the planning work over the past five years.

Some of the keys to success that I've had are meeting with community members, both in formal and informal interactions. I love to go out and meet people - I like to go for walking meetings. I have also explored about every facet of the entire city of Bellevue during my career here, working on all the different projects. I enjoy being a person working in community development - there are many jobs under that heading, and I appreciate the diversity of work that we are doing in our department.

What makes Bellevue special compared to other cities?

I really love the diversity of the community that we have. It has been getting much more diverse over the past couple of decades I've been working here.

I also really like the scale for a city, where we have a very dense downtown, and a whole range of interesting neighborhoods out there as well.

What challenges do you foresee in achieving the goals set for the future of Bellevue? What opportunities do you see coming out of those challenges?

Right now, the current economy is a challenge. We are working on ways to come out of this current economic downturn.

Often, cities need to think about prioritization, because there is a whole host of actions that are important to the city. And we do have resources to do a lot of them - but it does take some prioritization for what you want to do in the immediate years versus what is a mid-term or long-term action to work on.

Being able to implement our new comprehensive plan that will be adopted later this year is a huge opportunity. There is a lot of good planning work that is going to be embedded in that new plan, and it is going to lead us over the next 20 years as the city evolves.

As far as our department goes, we will be looking at updating our affordable housing strategy, updating our environmental stewardship plan and our economic development plan in the next couple of years.

In the next few years, what do you believe the City of Bellevue will begin to prioritize?

Affordable housing and environmental sustainability as mentioned, but also economic diversification, assistance to small businesses and helping those at risk of displacement is a focus. We also want to improve the range of mobility options out there for residents, visitors, and workers.

What do you love about working in downtown Bellevue?

It is very accessible. I spend quite a bit of time downtown as well as in the rest of the city, and I like the range of ways you can get to downtown Bellevue. I like to get out downtown, enjoy all the amenities we have. Also, City Hall is a great space to work. It is great for convening groups and the daily work we do.

Where is your favorite place to dine in Downtown Bellevue?

I love to go to the Bellevue Downtown Park with any takeout or picnic lunch and enjoy the people watching. I like seeing all the new improvements that we have made there and all the people enjoying the park.

Meydenbauer Bay Park offers a lookout of Lake Washington with parks, picnic tables and paths to enjoy. 

What is your favorite hidden gem in Bellevue?   

My hidden gem is a lookout at Meydenbauer Bay Park, on the west end of the park. You can look out over Meydenbauer Bay, and then you can look back at the downtown skyline.

It is a nice, quiet getaway to go to, and you can easily access it.  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have a true love for downtown Bellevue. When I first started here back in 2000, my first project was the update of the downtown implementation plan, from about 2000 to 2004. So that is where my career really started with the city. It is interesting to see how we are evolving downtown. It's really cool to see all the new businesses that are coming here and to see all the new residents. So, a lot of the thinking we did about growing the livability of downtown is really coming into effect.

Person Behind The Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.