Rita Chaudhuri, Ed. D.
Director Elementary Education
Tacoma Public Schools
Rita Chaudhuri has held several roles: daughter, sister, wife, mother, sister-in law, mother-in-law, teacher, and educator. Rita values all of her roles and they have provided her with a quality of life. She is nurtured, supported, inspired and pushed by these people to be the very best she can be and know they will always support her decisions and dreams. Family, friends, and mentors mean a lot to her. Rita has many dreams, for her own children, for the children she serves as a director of elementary education and for the children she has yet to serve. At this point in her life Rita has realized that many of her own goals have been achieved because of the influence of some person. Rita wants to be that person for a student who needs support or guidance to realize their own dreams.
Metro News Columnist
The News Tribune
Matt Driscoll is Metro News Columnist at The News Tribune. An award-winning journalist, he writes about government, public policy, social justice, equity and - most importantly - people. Previously, he's written for Seattle Weekly, the Weekly Volcano and the Portland Mercury, among other publications. A graduate of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, he currently lives in Tacoma with his brilliant wife Jennifer and their three kids, Lily, August and Alice.
Director of Technology
Saul Farber: A Lowell, Mason and Stadium grad who left to find his fortune back-east. Saul returned home in June 2014 to find Tacoma a new place, and also to find himself a new person. Saul’s children help him see his home city in a new light. It is clear that Tacoma is full of potential, and he is deeply excited to discover how we can play a role in shaping our city to serve itself with pride, equity and economic vibrancy.
Kurtis (Kurt) Fremont
Senior Environmental Specialist
City of Tacoma
Kurt Fremont has worked in the environmental compliance field for 14 years specializing in storm water and waste water management. Kurt enjoys his job with the City of Tacoma and works with amazing people in a fascinating field. As President of the Puyallup River Watershed Council, Kurt interacts with peer-members in the community to provide a volunteer forum and the opportunity to educate others in the watershed about important environmental aspects that may affect them. Personal professional development has been an important area of growth for Kurt for the last decade and has become a focus for him to foster in others in his team as he’s developed as a leader in his group. Kurt considers one of his greatest achievements as helping team members develop and advance professionally and love their role in the team. Happily married 15 years, Kurt and his wife enjoy hiking, working in the garden and travelling.
Employment Standards Program Manager
City of Tacoma
Born and raised in Pierce County, Melanie’s background includes over ten years of progressively responsible service in local government, with a focus on using collaboration and innovation to find effective solutions to highly-visible community issues. She joined the City of Tacoma in 2015, rapidly implementing a program that set a national standard for smaller agencies enforcing paid sick time and minimum wage laws. Before coming to Tacoma, she spent nine years tackling a broad range of issues as part of Puyallup’s City Manager’s Office. Melanie lives in an itty-bitty house in Sumner with her husband Kye, teenage son Dylan, and a not-so-itty-bitty American Bulldog. She enjoys big ideas, well written words, making things better, and the outdoors.
Melanie’s past pursuits have included serving on the boards of the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition and Mt. Rainier Federal Credit Union; working with the YMCA Youth Investment Center to connect teens with their government; and earning “Rookie of the Year” while skating for Tacoma’s Dockyard Derby Dames.
Dr. Veronica Hooper
Physician Executive for Primary Care-MultiCare
MultiCare Health System
Veronica Hooper is the first in her family to go to college and medical school. Veronica has worked at MultiCare since 2006 as a Family Practice Provider and moved into administration in 2010. Currently, she is the Physician Executive of Primary Care. Her second job is a taxi driver to three wonderful kids; Kenny (14), Alex (12) and Sophia (10). Veronica and her husband of sixteen years, Jeff, make their home in Gig Harbor and truly love their community. In her spare time when not at work or driving the kids, she sits on the board for the American Heart Association, is a member of the Gig Harbor Rotary, and occasionally coaches softball.
Deborah R. Howell
Chief Operations Officer
After spending a year in EEK Alaska (don’t ask her to pronounce the full name) with her husband, who wanted to teach in the small village, they moved back to Washington with glee. They renewed their respect for flushing toilets, packaged meat and big grocery stores. Deborah joined Washington Women’s Employment & Education (WWEE) in 1997 as an employment specialist, matching WWEE participants with internships and jobs. Deborah’s experience as a personnel manager helped her meet the needs of WWEE participants and the companies who hired them. After several promotions and many great experiences later Deborah resigned from WWEE to work for WorkForce Central in March of 2014 and continue her passion to assist others via workforce development activities.
Deborah strives for constant personal and professional growth and looks forward to catching excellence. “Perfection is not attainable, but if we CHASE perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi
Jasmyn D. Jefferson
Realtor/Branch Managing Broker
Windermere Professional Partners, Gig Harbor
Jasmyn has lived in Tacoma her entire life and has an adult daughter that she raised here in the city she loves; her name is also Jasmyn! Her friends tell her she has a childlike spirit but is known to get intense when passionate about a subject and people. Jasmyn has been a full time real estate broker since 2003 and recently made the leap into brokerage management and started as the branch manager of her firms Gig Harbor office in January 2017, something she is very excited and proud about given her life experiences. Jasmyn loves to cook, sing, eat, travel, and if the sun is out she will most likely be plotting on how to get in a kayak or planning a trip to climb something! Jasmyn’s love for community comes from her father who raised her as a single parent. From as far back as she can remember he always had some involvement in the community and she was right there at his hip. He has started a legacy that Jasmyn is sharing now with her daughter. Jasmyn’s passions tend to be directed where she sees a need. If it’s a park clean-up to participating on a non-profit board/committee, she is down. Jasmyn’s only food handling experience has been flipping burgers at free community events!! She firmly believes in getting involved no matter if it’s in your community or the industry in which you work, the compound effect is real.
Joseph J. LeRoy
CEO and President
HopeSparks Family Services
Joe LeRoy has worked for over 17 years in the nonprofit sector including work in several states such as Vermont, Montana, and Washington. He earned his BA in Psychology at the University of Montana in 2000 and his Master of Social Work from the University of Washington in 2007. Joe has also been a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in Washington State since 2011.
Joe has worked for HopeSparks Family Services since 2006 and became President and CEO on June 1, 2014. Prior to HopeSparks, Joe worked at Pierce County Alliance where he dedicated his time and passion to working with youth aging-out of the foster care system. He brings a relentless passion and dedication to his work in the nonprofit sector!
Joe has lived and worked in Pierce County since 2001 and has lived on the Key Peninsula since 2005. His wife (Ramey) of 11-years is a high-school science teacher and chair of the Science Department at North Mason High School in Belfair. His 8-year-old son (Joey) is an active Cub Scout and all world chess player and Lego builder.
Susan C. Paganelli
VIA Unlimited, LLC
Co-Director, Key Peninsula Partnership for a Healthy Community
Susan was raised in the Seattle area but was born in Germany where her parents served as diplomats. Her family provided an early exposure to and appreciation of travel, exploring different cultures, and viewing the world from another point of view. As an adult, Susan still loves to travel and she strives to find the common ground that unites all of us. Susan’s first career was as an elementary school teacher and education is still a passion for her. She went on to study International Human Rights and now consult on how to work with other cultures. Currently, she is working in local community development as part of the Key Peninsula Healthy Community initiative. Susan is fortunate to be married to the love of her life, Ben. They have spent 26 years together, traveling with the US Air Force for much of that time, and now, running a business and raising their three kids here in Pierce County.
Myung Lae Park
Executive Director of International Education
As the Executive Director of International Education at Pierce College, Myung is currently leading the college in advancing its mission by promoting international education and cross-cultural learning opportunities for a diverse community of learners to succeed in an evolving world.
Myung is dedicated to providing excellence in teaching and learning, and committed to staying current on innovation in instructional technology. As a self-motivated and creative individual with years of experience in higher education, she desires to find a way to inspire people to make difference in their lives.
Myung’s motivation to enable people to unlock their possibilities comes from her personal drive to promote social justice through education. Growing up as a youngest out of five under a single mother who had no opportunity to receive formal education and who has dedicated her life educating her children, she learned to appreciate the value of education that provides a sustainable platform to realize one’s dream. Myung has a special heart for providing educational opportunities for girls and single mothers as a tribute to her late mother. Myung plans to continue to re-examine her personal values and strength, and deliberately evaluate gaps in her leadership skills necessary to better serve the community.
Paul H. Patu
Principal Owner, Consultant/Trainer
Over the course of 20 years, Paul Patu has used his rich professional experience and specialized training in faith and community based urban youth work to establish relevant programs and initiatives that successfully engage and empower urban youth to become leaders, change agents and productive members of their community.
Recognized in the Greater South King County area as a premier intervention strategist and strong youth advocate, Paul has frequently been called upon by civic and community leaders to help stabilize neighborhoods under duress. He has mitigated the influence of gangs and youth violence by providing grassroots and collaborative leadership, effective intervention strategies, training and consultation to many non-profit organizations, municipalities and leaders in the City. His innovative approach to problem solving has helped many community groups and leaders make an impact on the people they serve.
Paul is currently consulting and training non-profit organizations through a consulting and training business known as Emerge 360. He and his wife, Shantel, founded E360 in 2014.
Paul and Shantel Patu are high school sweethearts and have been married for 21 years. They have four beautiful children, two girls in college and two boys in high school. The Patu’s life calling is to build meaningful connections for all of humanity.
Louis W. Paulsen
Director of Strategic Operations, Projects, and Risk Management
Port of Tacoma
Lou is a 28-year employee of the Port of Tacoma where he has worked in a variety of senior management positions in maintenance, facilities development (including engineering, environmental programs, capital budgeting and contracts) and security and risk management. In his work life, he particularly enjoys projects which require personal creativity, involve collaboration with others, and which yield practical, enduring and meaningful results.
He is husband to Marie; father to two adult daughters – Jackie and Kirsten; and (a young) grandfather to Avery and Owen.
Lou entered the maritime industry with a merchant mariner’s license and a bachelor of sciences degree in Nautical Industrial Technology from the California Maritime Academy. His early travels took him to Lima, Peru where he and Marie met. This year, they celebrated 33 years of marriage. In 2013, he completed studies in Ministry and Leadership through Life Pacific College. Lou has served on a variety of boards and councils and is active in his local church.
Reverend Abigail Vizcarra Perez, MDiv
Rev. Abigail Vizcarra Perez worked as a credentialed educator for private and public schools in California until moving to Washington when she learned that an MDiv from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology would allow her blend her love of poetry with her talent for preaching and spiritual direction. In 2011, she completed her thesis entitled The Poetics of Children’s Ministry. For 13 years she has served children and families in non-profits across the country. She currently works with Create Commons on the Connexion project as the first Hispanic/Latina American commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She loves living in Tacoma with her partner, Nathan Hollifield, and their daughter.
Northwest Spay and Neuter Center
Melanie Rushforth is the Executive Director of Northwest Spay and Neuter Center. The mission of Northwest Spay and Neuter Center is saving lives through prevention.
Prior to taking on the role at the clinic, Melanie most recently served as the Director for the Combined Federal Campaign in Pierce, Thurston, and Lewis Counties. Her dedication to building healthier, more functional communities is illustrated by service on an appointed advisory council for Secretary of State Kim Wyman as well as her role as a Pierce County Animal Services Advisor. She is a board member of Tacoma Rotary #8, and served on the board of the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County. Melanie has been recognized as a 2009 South Sound 40 under 40 honoree, honored as an Art Popham nominee for building community collaboration and spirit in the South Puget Sound, and in 2010 received a Woman of Influence award for the Puget Sound region. Melanie is a native New Yorker, settling in the Tacoma area after being stationed at Ft. Lewis while serving in the Army.
Melanie founded the Tacoma City Kids Marathon, and is an avid recreational runner. Melanie is married to Jason, and mom to Andrew, a senior at Washington State University. They have two cats and two dogs and live in the North End of Tacoma.
Erick T. Seelbach
Pierce County AIDS Foundation
Erick identifies as genderqueer and describes herself as a queer nun, health advocate, poet, and love ethicist. She was born in California, raised in Nevada, and became an adult in the Pacific Northwest. After graduating with a Master of Arts in Teaching from The Evergreen State College, she lived in Germany on a teaching Fulbright. Upon returning to the U.S., she found her calling working in HIV, and for the past 16 years, her work has led her to many different corners of volunteer, nonprofit and government settings: as a participant in HIV vaccine and prevention research studies, a leader of various research community advisory boards, a graduate of several leadership institutes, an outreach worker, a technical assistance and training provider, a grant writer and reviewer, a conference planner, and more. What she learned from these experiences helped build a foundation of love, compassion, and justice into her leadership. Erick currently serves as the Executive Director of Pierce County AIDS Foundation. Outside of work, she is a performance poet and a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Abbey of St. Joan.
Executive Director of Content Development
Marketing and Communications
Pacific Lutheran University
Lace is responsible for curating adaptive and sharable content in Pacific Lutheran University’s Division of Marketing and Communications. Starting in PLU’s Student Involvement and Leadership in 2005, Lace has a rooted background in connecting technology, marketing and communications with student development theory.
Lace has been a facilitator for the Student Social Justice Training Institute, at multiple queer student leadership retreats and has presented at both National Association of Student Personnel Administrators conference and NASPAtech.
Metro Parks Tacoma
Shon Sylvia, who was appointed Interim Executive Director for the park district in September 2016, has worked for Metro Parks since 1997. He brings more than 30 years of experience in parks, recreation, community services, and public sector marketing and business development. On December 12, 2016, he was appointed Executive Director, effective January 1, 2017.
He is responsible for Metro Parks’ senior administration and management of its 275 career employees and 750 seasonal or part-time employees. Prior to his appointment, Shon managed a variety of departments within the park district: Marketing and Communications, Recreation and Community Services, and Business Operations and Direction, most recently serving as the Assistant Executive Director.
Shon and his wife Alicia have been married for more than 20 years. At home, his duties include taxiing his two daughters to volleyball, swimming and family outings to the zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.
Downtown on the Go
Kristina Walker is a proud Tacoma resident, mother of two, and downtown Tacoma employee. She is the Executive Director at Downtown on the Go, an organization that promotes transportation options to bring people together and improve the quality of life for the people of Tacoma and the surrounding areas. Her passion for transportation options holds outside of work where she can be found most often on foot, bike, or bus going about her day, exploring the city, exercising, or hanging out with her family. She is excited to strengthen her leadership skills, her confidence, and her ability to connect with diverse audiences through the shared experience at ALF.
Katharine (Kate) Albert Ward
At the age of four, Kate would have told you her name was Katie Katharine Joy Cinderella Albert. Today, you can simply call her Kate. Kate is one of five children and was born and raised in Tacoma. For a few years, she lived in western Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon, but Tacoma has always been home. Kate loves that Tacoma is a place where we collaborate, communicate, and encourage each other. She is committed to community building through the arts and currently has the honor to serve as the Deputy Director at Hilltop Artists. Kate feels fortunate to have a job where she can live out her passion for social justice, equity, youth development, and arts education. Kate and her husband, Kyle, are also very involved at Trinity Presbyterian, a church that is dedicated to the neighborhood where they live and she also works.
Michael A. Yoder
Mike joined Associated Ministries as the Executive Director in August 2015, bringing more than 30 years of experience as a non-profit leader.
Regarding his role at AM Mike shared, “I’m energized by the vital role that Associated Ministries has always played in spearheading faith-based efforts to positively impact social needs in our community. My vision is to catalyze a new movement of interfaith service and cooperation in Pierce County to uniquely address the needs of the most vulnerable among us.”
During 12 years at World Vision, Mike helped create programs that engaged constituents nationally in many unique ways. As part of his three decades of work with international religious and humanitarian organizations, Mike has traveled to 30 countries and is a dedicated observer of news and trends affecting non-profits and social justice issues. He earned a degree in Communications from California State University and lives in Puyallup with his wife, Debbie; his son and daughter are currently away from home as university students.