December 12, 2023

From Isolation to Connection: Lockdown Relationships Inspire New Professional Network

By: Lauren Domino (MPA ’11), Assistant Dean for Advancement & Innovation at the Evans School 

2020 was not the easiest year to begin a career as an elected official, but that’s the situation Vanessa Kritzer (MPA ‘17) found herself in as a newly elected member of the Redmond City Council.  “It was a challenging time – navigating this new role via virtual council meetings and facing multiple complex policy and budgeting issues. I started reaching out to other leaders that I respected to get a sense of how they were approaching it, and Janice Zahn was at the top of my list,” shared Kritzer. The two met a few years prior while Kritzer was still a student at the Evans School and serving on the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington Board and connected over their shared Evans School experience.  

When Kritzer reached out during the early days of the pandemic, Zahn (EMPA ‘12) had already served on the Bellevue City Council for a few years and had begun a three-year term on the King County Board of Health in January 2020. “I was more than happy to connect with Vanessa and support her in this journey,” shared Zahn, who faced similar challenges of moving into lockdown and leading through the public health crisis. “I think back on this time and wonder, what could have been possible if I was able to dial into the Evans School to navigate this uncharted territory?” She recalled how her EMPA cohort was thirsty to continue working together after graduation in 2012 and self-organized “salons” around different topics – from public safety to affordable housing – to help springboard the work that they were each trying to advance.  

Kritzer and Zahn have kept in touch over the years – through the ups and downs of public leadership and reelection campaigns. Now, they’re thinking bigger about what’s possible. The two have come together with support from the Evans School team to launch the Evans in Government Network. The goal is to build a community of Evans Alumni who are working as government staff or elected officials to strengthen professional ties, support one another in addressing the pressing issues of today, and expand pathways to public service by connecting with the next generation of leaders. “I’m thrilled to create a space where we can come together and think about the most wicked problems we want to solve – and how we can work on innovative solutions that cut across cities, counties, and state policies,” shared Kritzer.  

Planning is underway for an Evans in Government Network launch event in March 2024. For more information or to sign-up, please visit the Evans School’s Alumni page