EDMONDS — Longtime Edmonds City Councilmember Kristiana Johnson has died, a city spokesperson confirmed Monday.
Johnson began her career in public service on the city’s volunteer transportation commission in 2005. In 2012, she was appointed to a vacant seat left by City Councilmember Michael Plunkett. She went on to win re-election three times.
“In her last days, Kristiana was concerned about her constituents,” Mayor Mike Nelson wrote in a statement. “… My deepest condolences to her family. She will be greatly missed by all of us.”
The cause of death had not been made public as of Monday.
City Councilmember Neil Tibbott said he, like other council members, learned of Johnson’s passing in an email.
“It’s still very shocking,” Tibbott said. “It’s very sad. I was not expecting this at all. I talked to her twice last week and she was very positive. … We’re all quite stunned.”
In her tenure, she was known to ask lots of questions. She wasn’t afraid to challenge the majority opinion.
“She’s characteristically voted her own conscience, her own way,” Tibbott said. “She often had opinions and amendments that were different than the rest of the council. She had her opinions and she let us know.”
Johnson turned 70 in April. She spent most of her life in the city and wanted to preserve the Edmonds she knew. Her colleagues referred to her as a “fiscal conservative,” and she urged caution in changes to Edmonds’ zoning.
She was an advocate for the arts, and specifically, the city’s Fourth Avenue Cultural Corridor, the mayor wrote Monday. She cared about the environment, and while serving as council president, she helped draft the city’s “Zero Waste” resolution.
Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who served on the City Council until 2021, met Johnson on the transportation commission over a decade ago. Last year, Johnson thanked Fraley-Monillas during a council meeting for “saving her life” during a medical emergency in summer 2021. Johnson’s health had not been good for years, Fraley-Monillas said.
But she didn’t want to give up her post on council, even as her health declined, Edmonds Diversity Commission member Dean Olson said.
Olson met Johnson when he served on the city’s volunteer transportation board. She lived a few miles down the road and the two remained friends for years. They went to see a Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary together in 2018, and sometimes they shared a meal in her driveway.
Johnson asked Olson to serve on the Edmonds Diversity Commission to share his perspective as a person with a disability.
Tibbott served in various roles alongside Johnson for over a decade. They met when Tibbott interviewed for a spot on the transportation commission. The two ran against each other for mayor in 2019, and she fell short in the primary.
“She was a one-of-a-kind person,” Tibbott said.
During a Public Safety, Planning, Human Services and Personnel committee meeting Monday, councilmembers Laura Johnson and Susan Paine said Kristiana Johnson will be missed.
“I know she loved Edmonds,” Paine said. “… She will be missed, and it’s just so terribly unexpected.”
Council President Vivian Olson described Johnson at a campaign event last year as a highly educated “hometown girl.”
Edmonds resident Ken Reidy, a familiar face at Edmonds City Council meetings, said Johnson’s passing is “heartbreaking.”
“She worked very hard for a long time,” Reidy said, “and will be greatly missed.”
The city has set up a temporary memorial at the Edmonds Veterans Plaza at Fifth Avenue N and Bell Street, outside City Council Chambers. Community members can leave notes in the memory book. A permanent memorial is in the works, and the city is accepting donations by check.