Bellevue council president shares suburban success at White House

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Bellevue council President Kathy Coder, who is a Republican in a mostly Democratic town, has a way of reaching people. Her efforts to bring together disparate development plans in the borough have helped to lay the groundwork for Bellevue's second restaurant renaissance; but her work also has caught the attention of people as far away as the nation's capitol.

On Monday, Ms. Coder will be part of the "Forum on First Suburbs, Sustainability and Economic Growth," which will take place at the White House. The forum will focus on the "inner ring," older suburbs surrounding cities, and is being led by Building ONE America, an advocacy group that supports efforts to create economic growth in small towns.

"They are trying to bring together leaders who have some vision," Ms. Coder said. "I'm very excited to be representing Bellevue. The fact that I'm Republican helped, along with my background in leadership and also what we are doing in Bellevue."

She will join other municipal, business and community leaders at the forum and will hear from national experts about the social and fiscal pressures facing older suburbs. She said the program also is intended to promote racial, economic and political inclusion.

Those in attendance will talk about efforts that are working in their towns and increase each other's knowledge of ways to promote economic growth in their communities. Ms. Coder is self-employed and provides leadership training and development for companies, nonprofits and schools.

Bellevue is in the midst of a revitalization of its main street commercial district. Volunteers in the borough are working with Allegheny Together, a county-led Main Street program for revitalization, to make the business district healthier and more diverse in its offerings. Recently, 14 businesses along the borough's Lincoln Avenue main street received grants through the program to renovate facades.

Ms. Coder, who has been on council for three years and has been president of the group for much of that time, said being chosen to be part of the forum is humbling.

"But it shows we've been doing some good things in Bellevue," she said. "We've made a lot of progress -- a lot of people know about [Bellevue] regionally. I think we could capitalize more on that as a community."

The connection between Bellevue's redevelopment efforts and the federal government is closer than might appear to some, Ms. Coder said.

"Housing and Urban Development dollars actually go to Allegheny Together. What a great opportunity to take that full circle and thank them [in Washington]."

Jonathan Barnes:


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