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Council approves program honoring Ruth Woo’s commitment to the future


Unanimous support for creation of fellowship program to mentor future public leaders


Ruth Woo dedicated her life to making her community better, through both activism and mentoring people who would become civic leaders. The Metropolitan King County Council today recognized Ruth Woo’s career and legacy by unanimously approving the creation of a fellowship program to help groom future leaders for the region Woo devoted her life to.

“For decades Ruth Woo opened opportunities to young people in our region,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski, the prime sponsor of the legislation. “I am thrilled that with this fellowship we can continue Mrs. Woo’s legacy and important work to open doors in public service to a new generation of leaders, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds.”

“Ruth Woo inspired and mentored countless leaders in our city, county and state,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott, the co-sponsor of the legislation. “Developing this permanent fellowship is a fitting tribute to a woman who spent her life shaping our communities for the better.”

Ruth Woo, born in Montana and raised in Washington and Oregon, was incarcerated as a child during World War II, earning her High School Degree while incarcerated at Camp Minidoka. In the 1950’s, Woo worked for Seattle Mayor Gordon Clinton and moved to Olympia to work for Gov. Dan Evans. Starting as a Secretary, Woo would advance to helping Evans in his third campaign for Governor. Woo then managed the campaigns for state Supreme Court candidate James Dolliver and Douglas Jewett’s run for City of Seattle City Attorney.

Woo worked for a number of elected officials while continuing to be an active advocate for the region’s Asian community. She also found time to mentor two people who would become King County Executive, Gary Locke and Ron Sims.

“This fellowship will provide exceptional opportunities for young people to understand and work in government, as well as honor a beloved member of our community,” said Dolores Sibonga, a friend of Woo’s and a former member of the Seattle City Council.

“The Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program will offer young people an opportunity that Ruth Woo would have been delighted to provide them as they take steps into their future life and career,” added Joan Yoshitomi, who worked with Gary Locke during his time as County Executive and Governor.

Woo, who passed away in 2016, was committed to public service. The approved legislation establishes a new fellowship program called, “The Ruth Woo Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program.”

Each year, the Program would award one full-time position with the recipient being assigned to work in various County agencies for periods of three to four months. The Program would give priority in selection to economically disadvantaged college graduates from backgrounds that have historically, lacked equitable access to education, employment, and professional development opportunities.

The fellow’s responsibilities may include following a piece of legislation through the legislative process, preparing briefings, communicating with constituents and County departments and assisting in outreach and Executive branch policy administration.
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