Seattle Politician Joins GSD

Former Seattle City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck has turned down a chance to run for mayor of Seattle so that he can accept a fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design for the coming academic year.

The decision was a difficult one to make, Steinbrueck said, adding that he was “significantly father ahead” of the incumbent mayor in the local polls, but that the chance to study at Harvard proved to be too tempting.

“I had two very compelling options before me,” said Steinbrueck.  “I’m committed to political change in the long term.  Harvard would allow me to explore the world of ideas and participate in the exchange of ideas...I’ve just decided to pursue my passion in a more focused way.”

Leaving behind support from local citizens and a fan-built Facebook page boasting approximately 900 members, Steinbrueck will come to Harvard next year as one of 10 Loeb fellows. 

The program accepts men and women who have visions to improve natural areas and the environment of cities within the United States, according to the Design School’s Web site. 

Steinbrueck said that one of the reasons he was drawn to the program was because his father once led an eight-year charge to save the historic Pike Place Market in Seattle—a project very much in keeping with the Loeb fellowship’s emphasis on maintaining and improving urban areas.

At Harvard, the self-proclaimed nature lover will follow his self-designed plan of study entitled “Politics, Planning, and Best Practice for Advancing Urban Sustainability.” 

While planning to keep his focus somewhat open-ended to allow for inspiration and influence from the Harvard community, Steinbrueck plans to learn about developing and advancing United States urban policy around global sustainability.

“Clearly change is needed,” he said.  “How we do that, how we affect change, is what I want to study.”

Steinbrueck—who served on the Seattle City Council for 10 years and has served as an urban planning and sustainability consultant since—was nominated for the fellowship by Lisa Richmond, the Executive Director of American Institute of Architects Seattle.

“Right now is a very interesting time for [Peter],” said Richmond, a previous recipient of a Loeb Fellowship.  “He is considering his next steps and what his future role in public policy will be.  Peter has been a big part of Seattle leadership surrounding sustainability policy.”

Though many of his supporters were disappointed that Steinbrueck will not be running for mayor, they supported his decision to come to Harvard. 

“After spending a decade on Seattle’s City Council, this fellowship will allow him to bring his experience with the realities of political process to bear on his passion for sustainability on a much larger scale,” said Susanna Williams, who was the creator of Steinbrueck’s Facebook fan group.  “In return, he will share his insights and perspective with Seattle, helping us grow in more sustainable directions.”

Richmond shared similar hopes for Steinbrueck’s return to Seattle.

“Everyone wants to see him come back to Seattle,” said Richmond.  “We’re all very interested to see what he does next with the national networks he will develop at Harvard.”