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Monday, August 5, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kraabel Returns To City Council For 3-Month Stint

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Paul Kraabel - ex-electrical engineer, longtime politician, board member for several local organizations and fairy-tale writer - was to be sworn in today on the Seattle City Council.

The former city councilman is filling the seat vacated by Tom Weeks, who resigned to work for the Seattle School District.

Kraabel will serve for three months, until a new member is elected in the Nov. 5 election. The three-day filing period for candidates interested in running for the open seat starts today.

Last month, when the upcoming vacancy became known, council members agreed it would be best to appoint an interim member who would not run for the office. Candidates could campaign; the interim council member could give full attention to the city.

Several council members enthusiastically mentioned "P.K.," who served on the Seattle council for 17 years before deciding to leave office in 1991.

He is smart, a consensus builder, someone who gets along well with others, council members said. Most attractive, though, they also agreed, was his vast experience in local government. That was crucial for a council that, by mid-November, hopes to draft the city's budget.

"He's a gift to us. He knows the system, he knows us and he can get up to speed quickly," said Councilwoman Jane Noland, who, along with Councilwomen Cheryl Chow and Sue Donaldson have served on the council with Kraabel.

"As a new council member, with the loss of Tom Weeks who had a lot of institutional memory, I'm excited to have someone with even more institutional memory so I can pick his brain," said Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski.

Kraabel, 63, lives on a houseboat on the east side of Lake Union. During a recent interview, he spoke about his past and his future in politics.

On returning to the council: "I enjoy local politics. It'll be fun to get involved again in that way."

He said he wants to be as useful to the council as he can be in a short amount of time and says it will be easier stepping into a council with people he already knows.

His priorities? "I want to revamp the city's tax code!" said Kraabel, known for his sense of humor. "That was a joke."

He is a longtime supporter of improved mass transit, and says he'll work for that.

During his earlier years on the council, Kraabel was conscientious but pragmatic, with a bent for rolling up his sleeves and solving problems, said Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, who served on the council with Kraabel in the 1980s. "He was a very solid rudder in moving the city around issues of land use," Rice said.

But after 17 years, Kraabel decided to leave public office. "When I feel good about something, I want to go on and do something different," he said. "When I don't, I'll stay on a job . . ."

Kraabel worked as an engineer for 15 years, mostly for The Boeing Co. He was elected to the Legislature as a representative in 1971, holding office for four years.

There is one similarity between engineering and politics, he said. Both involve problem-solving. "Except the problems are not so clean in politics."

After leaving the council, Kraabel worked on rapid-transit planning for the state Department of Transportation. In 1993, he moved to Pecs, Hungary, a Seattle sister city, and taught a course on American government for one quarter at a university.

When he returned, Kraabel, who writes poetry, completed a fairy tale inspired by the upcoming birth of his first grandchild.

He has three children, two daughters and a son. His second son, Ian, was killed in an avalanche on Mount Baker in 1986. His first wife and the children's mother, Marino Deseiliny, lives in Seattle.

In late 1991, his second wife, Laurie McCutcheon, a noted Seattle-area demographer, died of injuries from a Christmas Day skiing accident.

Kraabel is the board president for Seattle Community College. He also serves on the boards for Summer Nights at the Pier, the Seattle International Children's Festival, the International District Village Square and One Reel Productions, which runs Bumbershoot.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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