Inslee appoints ex-mayor

Karen Kiessling, youngest and first female mayor in Pullman

LOREN NEGRON, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee appointed former Pullman Mayor Karen Kiessling as a member of the Washington State Council on Aging.

Kiessling said her role began on Oct. 21 and will end on Sept. 15, 2022. The council has about 20 members who represent various advisory and elected positions across the state.

The council was set up by state law to advise the state governor, the secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services and the state unit on aging, she said.

“[Its purpose] is to have a unified voice across the state of Washington about what we think are the critical issues for senior citizens and for people with disabilities,” Kiessling said.

One of those critical issues relates to residential nursing home facilities. Kiessling said it is difficult to keep the facilities open and safe for seniors.

“A number of these houses, these residential centers, are closing down,” she said. “What we have is a greater number of people needing care and yet fewer places for them to go.”

In addition, she said the caring procedures for seniors is another issue that needs to be addressed. Kiessling said systems should be in place to ensure residential nursing home facilities have adequately trained workers. More services need to be in place to help seniors stay in nursing homes, she said.

“The fact is we’re living longer, and we’re living longer with massive numbers of medical issues,” she said, “that fact that that’s the case makes caring for seniors in nursing homes particularly complex.”

Kiessling served as Pullman’s mayor from 1976-80. She was the youngest person to be elected. She was also the first woman to run and be elected as mayor in Pullman. Kiessling said she helped create the Grand Avenue Greenway Committee, which is responsible for improving Grand Avenue’s beautification.

“I’ve had a very happy experience living in Pullman,” Kiessling said. “This is a wonderful place in which you can do a lot of things with the help of a lot of people.”