It was only a couple of years ago, when I felt lost in a sea of letters as people talked about the Greater Duwamish District Council (GDDC) and the City Neighborhood Council (CNC), the council of all councils. It was like listening to some cryptic language and I didn't have a decoder ring.
My how things have changed.
I started attending the GDDC in 2005. I went to a meeting to talk about some issue facing the neighborhood and the GDDC was a suggested pit stop in the outreach effort. I've been going to the monthly meetings ever since.
Through these meetings, I've obtained a better understanding of how the city operates and what the "org." chart looks like. For example, Seattle is divided into 13 districts and each district has a council. Georgetown falls within the Greater Duwamish District, as does Beacon Hill, South of Downtown and South Park.
The GDDC is a body that has only been gaining strength in the last few years. Community councils, merchant associations, business chambers, and environmental groups are among those represented. Chances are if there is an "activist" in your neighborhood, they are sitting at the table when the GDDC convenes.
Though the district council is made up of community leaders and various representatives, there is another face that is always present, that of the district coordinator.
CHANGE OF GUARD
When I first got involved with the GDDC, Steve Louie was our district coordinator. I spent my first few months sitting back, observing and assessing how everything operated. When I felt a bit more comfortable, I let the questions fly, and fly they did! Whenever I needed some information about city policy or was searching for a department contact, I'd call Steve.
I called a lot.
And last year, when we decided to start the Georgetown Merchants Association, I called even more. Funny, it was around that time that Steve announced he was taking a year long sabbatical. Coincidence, I am sure.
Enter Thomas Whittemore.
Thomas has been our interim district coordinator. He has been with the Greater Duwamish on a temporary basis, but it never felt that way. I don't think I gave him time to get situated into his new role before I bombarded him with questions and requests. The great thing was he never missed a beat. If I needed something, he'd have it. If I had a question, he'd have an answer. If he didn't know something, he'd find someone who did.
I am sure the number of emails I've sent to Thomas in the past year is in the hundreds. I have him programmed into my phone and his business card is in my wallet. That is how much I rely on him and his knowledge.
And last January, when I was nominated to chair the Greater Duwamish District Council, the frequency of my emails increased. With new duties comes new questions, and thankfully I know where to turn to find the answers. This is why I can be found at the neighborhood center on most Fridays asking Thomas more questions.
A CRUCIAL SOURCE
It's important to note that you don't need to chair a council or start an association to benefit from your district coordinator. They are a resource for everyone. If you log onto the Seattle Department of Neighborhood's website (www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods) and look up service centers and neighborhood districts, you will find your coordinator.
You will also get a glimpse of the services they offer. This includes information on everything from community events to job opportunities; from neighborhood organization contacts to crime prevention and block watch materials. If that isn't enough, you can also learn about your local food banks, land use and zoning issues or Metro bus schedules. I believe I've had conversations with Thomas about all of those subjects, and then some.
It was almost a year ago when Thomas came to the Greater Duwamish District. At a recent meeting, he informed the group that Steve Louie would be returning from sabbatical and he would be going back to the Neighborhood Matching Fund. When asked how he felt, Thomas said that it would be nice to get his life back and spend some time with his wife. Hmmm... I recall Steve saying the same thing a year ago.
District coordinators have to be some of the most valuable people on the city's payroll, and they have to be among the most overworked. I am always amazed when I hear about the numbers of meetings they attend and I know that pales in comparison to the number of people they help.
A couple weeks back, I was talking to a manager within the Department of Neighborhoods. He was telling me about how district coordinators should be experts in their areas. They should know all the players, all the streets and businesses: they should know the issues, what's working and what's not. If anyone within the city or outside wanted some information on a district, they should be able to call the district coordinator and get answers.
The manager said that the department wasn't there yet, but they were on their way. In my experience with not one but two coordinators, they are there.
They are my experts. As someone who has been helped, time and time again, by my district coordinator, I say thank you. Steve, I am looking forward to your return and Thomas, you will be missed.
Georgetown resident and businesswoman Kathy Nyland may be reached via email@example.com.[[In-content Ad]]