Issaquah recalls Mayor Stella Alexander on January 2, 1934.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 2/14/2008
  • Essay 8489

On January 2, 1934, Issaquah recalls Mayor Stella Alexander (1881-1960) from office. During her 19-month tenure, the town's first female mayor alienated her town council and eventually the citizens she was elected to lead. The local fire department resigned en masse, the police judge resigned, and part of the town council refused to work with her. She dodged two recall attempts before finally succumbing to the third recall on January 2, 1934.

Stella Alexander was elected Issaquah’s first female mayor in March 1932. She assumed office three months later, for what was to have been a two-year term. Her uncompromising style soon alienated her town council, various town officials, and eventually the people of Issaquah. By the summer of 1933, Issaquah's politics were in an uproar. Voters filed two recall petitions against Alexander; she successfully had them dismissed in legal proceedings. But she was not able to outmaneuver a third recall petition, and on January 2, 1934, Issaquah voters voted on the recall.

Whether it was due to rainy weather on Election Day or because Alexander was expected to be ousted from office by a wide margin, voter turnout was not heavy -- at least not by Issaquah standards in 1934. Out of the town’s 360 registered voters, 291 voted, or nearly 81 percent -- but in both the 1930 and 1932 mayoral election, turnout had been 93 percent. Alexander voted and then forecast the result to a Seattle Daily Times reporter: “Of course, they'll beat me. Next time, I'll go out for a big job. One that pays some money -- sheriff or something."    

And lose she did, by a lopsided vote of 206 to 85. To add insult to injury, when it was announced that evening that she had lost and that she had cast the 13th vote in the election, “some sly wag decorated the doorknob of the City Hall with a bow of black crepe and a large figure ‘13’” (The Issaquah Press, January 4, 1934, p. 1).  The next day another joker hung a placard on the town hall doors reading “Stella doesn’t live here anymore.” She responded to the recall by refusing to turn over the keys to the town hall.

In 1936 Alexander and her husband, Jack, moved to Renton and managed the Renton Tourist Hotel for many years. In the 1950s she moved to Seattle, where she battled both dwindling finances and declining health in her final years. She died in 1960. 

Sources: Online Encyclopedia of Washington History, “Alexander, Stella” (by Phil Dougherty), (accessed February 2, 2008); “Issaquah Recalls The Madam Mayor,” The Issaquah Press, January 4, 1934, p. 1.

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