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About Council Vice-Chair Jeanne Kohl‑Welles

Learn more about Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles represents District 4 which encompasses a large part of the City of Seattle, from Lenora Avenue in downtown to 145th Street, the northernmost border of Seattle with the City of Shoreline, and from Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound to Interstate 5 for most of the district. Councilmember Kohl-Welles took office on January 1, 2016, succeeding Council Chair Larry Phillips who retired. She was re-elected to a second term in 2019. She chairs the King County Council’s Committee of the Whole and is the Vice Chair of both the Council and the Employment and Administration Committee. Additionally, she serves on the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, King County Board of Health, and the Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee, in addition to a number of outside committees.

Prior to serving on the Council, Jeanne represented the 36th Legislative District in the Washington State Senate since 1994 and for three years in the state House of Representatives. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology of Education and an M.A. in Sociology from UCLA, and a B.A. and M.A. in Education from California State University Northridge (CSUN). She also was a Fannie Mae Foundation Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.

She represented the State of Washington on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education for 11 years, serving as Chair in 2016. She also served for several years on the Executive Committee of the NCSL – the National Conference of State Legislatures – and twice as President of NCSL’s Women’s Legislative Network. Jeanne is also a member of the UW Women’s Center Anti-Trafficking Task Force, the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Statewide Coordinating Committee, and the State Task Force Against Human Trafficking that was created by her Senate Bill 5884 enacted in 2015. 

Jeanne is also a published author of academic and general readership books. She worked as a public school teacher and as an adjunct faculty member in the Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and Sociology Departments and College of Education at the University of Washington for 23 years. She was the principal investigator of two federally funded research grants on child sexual abuse prevention and girls and women in school sports, and has been an expert witness for lawsuits on Title IX and school sexual harassment and misconduct.

Prior to moving to Seattle in 1985, Jeanne served as Assistant Dean/Coordinator of Women’s Programs at the University of California, Irvine, and Educational Equity Specialist for the U.S. Department of Education Region IX, assisting school districts in implementing Title IX. She also served as a consultant with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, monitoring school districts’ compliance with nondiscrimination in education laws and regulations. In addition, she taught sociology, education, and women’s studies courses at California State University, Long Beach & Fullerton, and was a public school teacher upon her graduation from college.

Jeanne has been a national and international speaker on women in politics, public policy, and human trafficking. Three local examples include as a 2012-14 Humanities Washington speaker, Jeanne spoke around the state through the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau on the topic of “Human Trafficking in Washington: From the Historic Mercer Maids to Sexual Exploitation in Internet Ads,” a primary focus of her legislative efforts. She continued speaking for Humanities Washington in 2015-16 on the topic of “Women as Political Change Agents: From the Late 1800s to the Present.” She also is a speaker with the U.S. Department of State International Visitors Program, World Affairs Council in Seattle.  

Jeanne has been very involved in the community, e.g., having served as a member of the Queen Anne Community Council Board, Queen Anne Helpline Board, YouthCare’s Board, Committee for Children Board, the U.W. Women’s Center’s Anti-Trafficking Advisory Committee, and the U.W. Harry Bridges Labor Center Visiting Committee. She formerly served for years on the Transportation Choices Coalition Board and is a “Lifetime Honored Member” of the Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle.

Jeanne has received numerous recognitions and awards, including:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (2015)
  • Outstanding Cannabis Activist for Outstanding Achievement in the Advancement of Washington Law Reform from Seattle Hempfest (2015)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Metropolitan Democratic Club (2013)
  • Visionary Leadership Award from the Committee for Children (2013)
  • A+ score from the Children’s Campaign Fund (2013)
  • Washington’s Most Progressive State Senator by the Progressive Democrats of America (2013)
  • An “A” rating on the Racial Justice Report Card from the Washington Community Action Network (2013)
  • Legislator of the Week, Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance (Feb. 25-March 1, 2013)
  • Woman of Courage Honoree, University of Washington Women’s Center (2012)
  • Legislator Wine Integrity Award, Family Wineries of Washington (2012)
  • Legislative Champion, Mockingbird Society (2013, 2012)
  • Housing Hero, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance/Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (2013, 2012 and 2011)
  • Lincoln Freedom Award, Seattle Against Slavery (2010)
  • Leadership Award, Statewide Poverty Action Network (2010)
  • Legislator of the Year, Humane Society of the U.S. (2010)
  • Special Recognition, UAW, Graduate and Professional Students of the U.W. (2010)
  • Legislator of the Week, Washington BUS (March 6, 2009)
  • Shining Star, Planned Parenthood (2009)
  • Washington Sizzle Award “Committee Chair of the Year,” FUSE (2009)
  • Legislator of the Year, Progressive States Network (2007)
  • Pacesetter Award, Women’s Legislative Lobby (2007)
  • Ancil Payne Leadership Award, Washington CeaseFire (2007)
  • Public Policy Official Recognition, Jewish Federation of Seattle and King County (2007)
  • Louise Miller Arts Advocacy Award, Washington State Arts Alliance (2007)
  • Angel for Children Award, Parents for Safe Child Care (2007)
  • Champion, School Meals Access Coalition (2007)
  • Legislator of the Year, SEIU 775 (2006)
  • Legislator of Year Award, AFT-Washington (2006)
  • Anchor Award, Washington Credit Union League (Feb. 2006)
  • Legislator of the Month for human trafficking legislation, Center for Policy Alternatives (June 2005)
  • Good Deeds Recognition, Washington Conservation Voters (2004)
  • Queen Anne Citizen of the Decade, Queen Anne/Magnolia News (November 2002)
  • Humane Hero Award, PAWS, Washington State (2002)
  • Pacesetter Award, Women’s Legislative Lobby (2002)
  • Marching toward Equity Award, Washington Federation of Teachers (2001)
  • Honorary Advisory Board, National Education for Women’s
  • Leadership Program (NEW Leadership), Washington State University (2001-02)
  • Legislator of the Year, Washington Student Lobby (1999)
  • Child Care Champion Award, Child Care Works (1998)
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Women’s Conference Circle (1995-98)
  • YouthCare Advocate of the Year (1995)
  • Washington Defenders Association and Washington Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys Advocate of the Year (1995, 1996)
  • Woman of Achievement Award, Business and Professional Women—Washington State (1995)