By Hewan Mengistu
Tell us about your role at the Port?
I am the Port Senior Director of Environment and Sustainability. I have two different departments under me: Aviation Environment and Sustainability and Maritime Environment and Sustainability and Planning. I oversee making sure we are complying with all environmental laws and obligations, and for meeting our environmental Century Agenda goals. My favorite part of my job is working with creative people who are smart and know their stuff. To do environmental work, people tend to be experts in certain areas and I need to be generally aware of all of them. It’s been great to work with people who are experts in their field, and work cooperatively with other people to make things happen. I do a lot of work on the executive leadership team. [As an executive sponsor of the Port-wide Pride employee resource group], I also try to do what I can so that women, people of color, and LBGTQ people have a voice, and make it a better place for them to work.
What is your favorite thing you have done here at the Port?
I have had the joy of being a part of a group who does airport environmental work around the world, and we work on behalf of airports worldwide when it comes to having stricter environmental standards for aircraft noise and emissions. I have gotten to travel to some neat international places to meet with this group, and have made some lifelong international friends, along with travelling to places I never thought I would go to.
What would you say are some of the big changes you’ve seen at the Port since you began working here?
The changes over the last 28 years I have been at the Port have been astounding. When I first got here, there were not a lot of women. I have seen a lot of changes in terms of diversity and acknowledgment of the contributions of diverse people here. The Port’s focus on the environment was not how it is today. There is a stronger emphasis on doing the right thing environmentally. And it is so refreshing to see the Commission push us to do more!
Are you involved in any Port Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)?
I have been involved with the Women’s Initiative since it started a long time ago, so I do a lot of work on women-related issues. I am the executive sponsor for the Employee Resource Group (ERG) Port Wide Pride (PWP). As an executive sponsor, I want to increase the number of folks that show up to Port Wide Pride and make sure we are seen in the community as an employer and leader that embraces the LBGTQ population and seeks to make the Port a pleasant and productive work environment for them. Potentially in the future, we can consider where there is opportunity for PWP to expand into a greater advocacy role.
Why did you decide to be an executive sponsor for PWP?
It is important for leaders to know what is going on for folks in a resource group. Without somebody at the top knowing what issues they face, I think it is hard for the organization to do something to solve some of the problems or acknowledge some of the accomplishments. I think it is important to hear the issues the LBGTQ+ community at the Port face, do what I can to make the issues are known at the top, and make a plan to address them. I think it is great that people have a safe place to go where they feel at home and they can express themselves and feel heard.
What is PWP planning to do next?
Port Wide Pride will be marching in the parade on June 24th and would love to have Port of Seattle participation as possible. We do preparation for the Pride parade and make sure the Port shows up. I think there are possibilities for PWP to go more into representing issues, concerns, or interests of the LBGTQ population but for now the focus is getting ready for the parade.
When you’re not here at the Port, what do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I like to get outside, travel, take walks, garden and enjoying nature. I like to spend time with my friends, listen to live music and volunteer in the community. I love to spend time with my son, daughter and her husband.