In this edition of The Memo, we wanted to shine a light on a few Evans School alums who are dedicated to public service and making a real-world impact. We asked four alums in managerial or executive positions about their work and how the Evans School set them up for their success. These are a few highlights of their stories.

Harold Taniguchi (MPA '90), Director, Department of Transportation, King CountyHarold Taniguchi

Why is the work you do important?

I am fortunate to work in transportation, which is absolutely relevant to our lives. Without the safe and efficient movement of people, goods and services, so many of our basic needs break down. On the human side, we would have individual and community isolation. Commerce would be constrained. Our ability to enjoy the region’s beautiful surroundings would be compromised. If we implement our transportation needs poorly, it could negatively impact some communities and the environment. So what we do in transportation is important.

On another front, being a leader for an organization requires that I act in a thoughtful and respectful manner. Paying attention to what matters to our employees can have big dividends. We all benefit from increased employee participation, open communication, and the sharing of lessons learned. So in my role as a department director, being an above average leader (or better) is also important.

What advice would you offer to a graduate student at the Evans School?

I know it seems easy for me to say being an “old” person, but when we start out on our careers, we want to get to the next level of responsibility very quickly. I guess that combination of impatience and entitlement is a natural byproduct of “youth.” By focusing too much on the next step, however, we can miss some pretty important lessons along the way. Things we can learn deeply and put into practice later. Things we can appreciate for a long time, including working relationships. Things about ourselves that could come in handy when the inevitable moment of truth unexpectedly unfolds in front of us. It may be corny, but going slow to go fast has validity. Start consciously building your desired reputation on your first day. You may not feel it, but people are paying attention.

Read the full interview.

 

Kymber Waltmunson (MPA '04), King County Auditor, King CountyKymber Waltmunson

What does your job entail?

I am the director of an independent audit office within the legislative branch of King County government. We conduct oversight of county government through independent performance audits and monitoring of capital projects. A performance audit is a systematic examination of evidence to assess the performance and management of government activities against objective criteria with the goals of improving efficiency, effectiveness, equity, accountability, and transparency. Our work results in a written report presented to the King County Council and published online for the public. You can find our reports at http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/auditor.aspx.

Why is the work you do important?

The public trusts government to act in their best interests and spend their money well. It is our job to be both the public’s watchdog and government’s coach. Auditors are naturally both critical and idealistic and we get to use those underappreciated personality traits to make things better for people. For example, over the last three years we’ve identified $127 million in one-time financial impact, $13.6 million in annual ongoing savings. We helped the county to be more prepared in the event of a disaster, identified ways that the Sheriff could better detect and respond to concerning officer behavior, and recommended ways that paramedics could provide more sensitive emergency care to the public in need.

We use our influence to create change—last year nearly 90% of our recommendations were implemented by county departments. It is so much fun to see the county work better because of our efforts. Often even when departments say they disagree with one of our recommendations (generally less than five percent of the time) they end up implementing it anyway.

Read the full interview.

 

Mark Melroy (MPA '10), CFO, Washington State Attorney General’s OfficeMark Melroy

Why is the work you do important?  

The Attorney General’s Office does a wide range of good work for the people of our state. Just a few examples: our Consumer Protection Division stands up to companies defrauding consumers; our Social and Health Services Divisions advocate for the best interests of children in our state’s foster care system; our Ecology Division helps to protect the environment.  

Anecdotally, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell have described some of the feedback they’ve received about their recent work on the travel ban case, which has been extensive. Recently I heard AG Ferguson reference a letter they received from an eight-year-old girl who was born in Iraq but living in the United States. She wrote “Because you stood up … I can be here." Every day I go to work to support those guys and all the other great people at the Attorney General’s Office.

What lessons from your graduate education still influences you today?  

Of all the things I learned from Affiliate Professor Dwight Dively, which are too numerous to list, perhaps the most significant was that a civil engineer could become something completely different while still making good use of a technical background.  

Professor Steve Page taught me the lesson of how to create public value using Mark Moore’s model and that still helps me to this day. My current work helping manage the operations of the AGO is very focused on the “organizational capacity” part of the strategic triangle and I often find myself analyzing authorizing environments, which is part of the “legitimacy and support” triangle. That last sentence is a shout out to the nerds.

Finally, above my desk I have the program for the celebration of life for former Evans School Dean, Marc Lindenberg. There is a quote on the program from Dean Lindenberg’s daughter Anni that says “To other people, success is often measured by material goods. For my father, success was measured by the number of people he helped.”

Read the full interview.

 

Candida Lorenzana (MPA '07), Manager, Transit Strategy and Service, Seattle Department of TransportationCandida Lorenzana

Why is the work you do important?

Since graduate school, I always believed that transportation is important because of its nexus to many policy areas. Transportation is about so much more than what we see on the street; it’s connected to public health, access to jobs and housing, and race and social equity. The decisions we make about projects and programs influence much more than someone’s commute. It influences their quality of life.

What lesson/s from your graduate education still influences you today?

One of my goals when I decided to pursue transportation as my focus, was to be able to simplify and communicate complex ideas. This is something that influences my everyday work. The ability to break down technical information to a few key points is essential.

Read the full interview. 

 

Have a great story of public service to share, or know another alum who is creating real world impact? Send us a note at evansalum@uw.edu!