We’ve got a lot going on at the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. We easily manage hundreds of community meetings and events every year. In fact, our Historic Preservation program alone facilitates more than 20 meetings each month! That’s a lot for one small department to manage. What makes it possible is the supportive and collaborative nature of our staff.
A perfect example of this was the recent annual election for two open seats on the International Special Review District (ISRD) Board. Managed by our Historic Preservation program, this seven-person board is charged with preserving, protecting, and enhancing the cultural, economic, and historical qualities of the Chinatown International District (CID). Given the rapid growth of our city, the amount of new development in the neighborhood, and the recent addition of Little Saigon into the CID Historic District, our staff anticipated elevated interest in this year’s board election.
In preparation for the election, ISRD Coordinator Rebecca Frestedt began her usual work of lining up interpreters to assist with the large population of non- or limited-English speaking community members in the CID. When possible, she typically works with other City of Seattle colleagues who speak the necessary languages and are able to assist. But this year, she was unable to secure the usual help. She was about to reach out to the city’s language bank when she heard through the grapevine that her DON colleague Anna Tang actually spoke all three of the needed languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese.
Anna doesn’t even work in the Historic Preservation program; she works on DON’s Finance and Budget team handling accounting and payroll. However, when Rebecca approached her for help, she didn’t hesitate. Anna checked with her program supervisor, who easily approved and supported the request.
On the afternoon and early evening of November 20, Anna was there at the Bush Asia Hotel working side by side with Rebecca. Together, they made sure that neighborhood residents got the information they needed and were able to cast their votes.
“We had a record turnout of voters and community members who registered to vote the day of the election,” said Rebecca Frestedt. “With Anna’s help, and the assistance of a couple of community members who jumped in to help at peak times, we were able to assist over 170 community members on election day!”
“It was a great joy and experience for me, because I had the opportunity to help the community in a place with a lot of memories of my early days in this country.” – Anna Tang
This kind of collaboration may seem small, but these gestures of support and teamwork among our staff are what drive this department. They foster new perspectives and deeper appreciation for the work of our colleagues. And, most importantly, they allow us to accomplish more for the communities of Seattle than we ever could on our own.