Former state Rep. Karla Wilson, 88, remembered as ‘smart, energetic’

Wilson served the 39th Legislative district from 1985 to 1991. She died Dec. 31.

Karla Wilson in 1988. (Courtesy of Wilson family)

Karla Wilson in 1988. (Courtesy of Wilson family)

LAKE STEVENS — During her first term in office, Rep. Karla Wilson, D-Lake Stevens, made the front page of the Seattle P-I in a photo of her kicked back at her desk on the floor “taking 40 winks in a break from the budget action in Olympia.”

It showed how hard she worked during her six years in the 39th Legislative district from 1985 to 1991.

Wilson died on Dec. 31. She was 88.

Education was her lifelong passion.

She taught special education at Lake Stevens schools, going beyond the classroom to take students on camping trips. She was an administrator at Everett Community College for Running Start, a program for high school students that she helped pass while in state office.

“Karla Wilson was a smart, energetic legislator from the Lake Stevens area who brought a keen perspective to the transportation challenges that existed in Snohomish County during that time period,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said in an email statement. “And she was right — we needed more investment, and we still need more investment.”

Wilson grew up in Lake Stevens, back when it was a sleepy town with a big lake. After graduating from Everett High School, she earned a full ride to Vassar College in New York. She finished at the University of Washington with undergraduate and graduate degrees. She and her husband, Bill, had three daughters and were foster parents.

Her daughter, Jill Sundin, said her mom welcomed the challenges of politics.

“She was kind of vocal and this was back in the ’80s and I don’t think there were that many women in the Legislature,” Sundin said. “She was told by some man that freshmen were to be seen but not heard and that she had used up all her time on the floor. They wanted her to be quiet and that doesn’t bode well with my mom.”

According to “1984-1993: The Era of Leadership” on the state government website: “By 1982 women comprised 23 percent of the total legislative membership with 35 members. The women serving today are different than their early counterparts. They are more like their male colleagues: younger, better educated, with professional and business backgrounds.”

Sundin said her mom “loved adventure, golf, bridge, dancing, and was known for her Swedish knickabrod (cracker).”

Karla Wilson holds a champagne glass while celebrating the closing sale of her home in Palm Springs, California, in May 2021. (Courtesy of Wilson family)

Karla Wilson holds a champagne glass while celebrating the closing sale of her home in Palm Springs, California, in May 2021. (Courtesy of Wilson family)

Wilson lived in Palm Springs after retiring. She moved to an assisted living center near Sundin in East Wenatchee in June 2022 due to a stroke that paralyzed her on one side.

She rang in 2023 early, when the New Year’s Eve celebration at the center was held on Friday instead of Saturday.

“When I went to visit her on Friday she was at the party. They were having a glass of wine and a cookie,” Sundin said.

“I was dancing with her in the wheelchair. After a while she was determined to stand up and dance. I helped her under her arms. We danced together.”

A celebration of life will be held in the spring, with more dancing.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443;; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Mill Creek house fire leaves 1 dead

The fire was contained to a garage in the 15300 block of 25th Drive SE. A person was found dead inside.

Firefighters respond to a house fire Wednesday morning in the 3400 block of Broadway. (Everett Fire Department)
3 hospitalized in critical condition after Everett house fire

Firefighters rescued two people, one of whom uses a wheelchair, from the burning home in the 3400 block of Broadway.

The Walmart Store on 11400 Highway 99 on March 21, 2023 in in Everett, Washington. The retail giant will close the store on April 21, 2023. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Walmart announces Everett store on Highway 99 will close on April 21

The Arkansas-based retail giant said the 20-year-old Walmart location was “underperforming financially.”

Michael Tolley (Northshore School District)
Michael Tolley named new Northshore School District leader

Tolley, interim superintendent since last summer, is expected to inherit the position permanently in July.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
New forecast show state revenues won’t be quite as robust as expected

Democratic budget writers say they will be cautious but able to fund their priorities. Senate put out a capital budget Monday.

Everett Memorial Stadium and Funko Field on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Drive to build new AquaSox ballpark gets $7.4M boost from state

The proposed Senate capital budget contains critical seed money for the city-led project likely to get matched by the House.

Granite Falls
Two suspects charged in motorhome shooting near Granite Falls

Bail was set at $2 million for each of the suspects, Dillon Thomas, 28 and David Koeppen, 37.

Hikers make their way along the Heybrook Ridge Trail on Friday, March 18, 2023, in Index, Washington. (Kayla Dunn / The Herald).
‘It took my breath away’: Lace up your hiking boots because spring is here

Heybrook Ridge Trail packs stunning views and a moss-covered forest in a 3.3 mile round-trip package.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Providers at Community Health Center of Snohomish County vote to form a union

Providers expressed hope for improving patient care and making their voices heard with management.

Most Read