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Weaving Equity into the Fabric of the Community

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Sep 17, 2019

Two recent events are indicative of the Port’s commitment to engage the broadloom of King County’s cultural fabric.  

Celebrating Bookda Gheisar, new Senior Director for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the hiring of Bookda Gheisar to lead a newly created position on our executive leadership team — Senior Director for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Bookda brings with her years of experience and the respect of our many diverse communities. She served previously as Policy Advisor for King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice, as Executive Director of the Mona Foundation, Global Washington, and the Social Justice Fund.

Group photo of attendees at Gheisar's Welcome Reception, taken Aug., 18, 2019
Attendees at Gheisar's Welcome Reception (August 13, 2019) from L to R: LeAnne Schirato; Marie Kurose; Consuelo Davis; Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman; Goodwill CFO Mai Nguyen; Goodwill Chief of Equity Nabors Glass; Port of Seattle Sr. Director for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Bookda Gheisar; Goodwill Employment ManagerJennifer Pritchard.

There is much for her to do, for it has been long recognized that the Port could do a better job of helping to assure the public knows how to benefit from the broad range of opportunities the Port provides. There’s also work for her to do within the Port, and her position on the executive leadership team will go a long way toward enabling her to work with our existing Office of Social Responsibility and others to transfer these insights throughout the organization.

Interestingly, the impetus to create this position was a result of community input we received from advisors to the Energy and Sustainability Committee, the creation of which I championed upon my arrival at the Port almost four years ago.

Given the strong support of the entire Commission for this work, I’m encouraged she will make great progress to help us better serve all our communities.

Duwamish River Festival

Commissioner Felleman and local youth examine bull kelp at the Duwamish River Festival, September 2019.
Commissioner Felleman and local youth examine bull kelp at the Duwamish River Festival, August 17, 2019.

Also last month, I attended the 13th Annual Duwamish River Festival at the Duwamish Waterway Park the Port has been part of since its inception.  I’ve had the pleasure of attending the past few years and come away each time encouraged that the resilience of the aquatic environment is more than matched by that of the people living alongside the Duwamish River. The event gives us a chance to come together to celebrate both our environmental work and our long-term commitment to the community, for there’s still much to do.

The further formalization of this effort will be coming before the full Commission in a couple of months when we consider the adoption of a Duwamish Valley Community Equity Program. This policy directive will guide our efforts moving into the future. 

I want to acknowledge that earning the trust and support of our neighboring Port communities could not be done without the work of dedicated Port employees like Christina Billingsley. We are proud to have her representing the Port and look forward to hearing from the coalition she will bring before the Commission later this year.

Much of this work has been made possible due to the Commission hiring our Executive director, Steve Metruck, 18 months ago. We changed the title of the position from CEO to Executive Director to emphasize the importance the Commission puts on public service. Retiring as Admiral and CFO of the Coast Guard were important qualifications for the job, but it was his integrity and commitment to gender and cultural equity (as well as the environment) that are intrinsic to his capabilities to serve as the leader of the Port.

We won’t be the Port with just one hire or support for one program. It requires an ongoing effort and I am proud that Port staff and my fellow commissioners are committed to creating lasting change.

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