Luncheon Urges Leaders to Work Together for the Eastside’s Future


More than 450 attendees commit to collaboration for the greater good

Calling the event a Future Raiser rather than a fund raiser, Leadership Eastside President James Whitfield invited the more than 450 business, non-profit and elected community leaders to stand and signal their willingness to collaborate to build a community where everyone can thrive. Throughout the banquet hall at Meydenbauer Center, virtually all of the attendees rose to be encouraged by Whitfield’s call to action, “Remember, together we are strong.”The inspiring conclusion to the kick-off of Leadership Eastside’s 10th anniversary celebration came after CEO Tony Mestres of event sponsor The Seattle Foundation thanked the community leaders for their attendance.  “Our mission is to ignite powerful and rewarding philanthropy to make King County a stronger, more vibrant community for all,” said Mestres. We can accomplish that by working with each of you alongside organizations like Leadership Eastside.”


After Mestres, Honorary Co-Chair Rob McKenna, former Washington State Attorney General, remarked that he never would have expected the organization he co-founded approximately twenty-five years ago, Advance Bellevue, would have merged with Leadership Eastside’s other predecessor organization,  Leadership Institute, and grow to host a luncheon of this type.


Each of the panelists shared insights into the work their organizations are doing that will drive changes on the Eastside into the future.  Gregory K. Johnson, President of Wright Runstad & Company, and Puget Sound Business Journal’s Executive of the Year, talked about the impetus behind the $2.3 Billion Spring District project – a transit oriented development that will anchor a new vision for the Bell-Red area.  He also talked about the Global Innovation Exchange, a pending partnership between the tech sector, University of Washington and a major university in China that would place a new vector for higher education and high-tech innovation on the Eastside.  Kimberly Harris, CEO of Puget Sound Energy discussed plans to invest in new power generation and storage technology which will be balanced with additional “traditional” power infrastructure in order to balance continued reliability and ongoing technological advancement. Lauren Thomas (LE ’13), CEO of Hopelink, encouraged the attendees to pay attention to the growing racial and economic disparities on the Eastside.  She also shared that Hopelink is in the “quiet phase” of a capital campaign, in discussions with long-term partners about ways Hopelink can advance their mission of moving people from crisis to self-sufficiency.


In keeping with the Leadership Eastside tradition, the panelists each provided the class members with a charge – a call to action as they continue the two-year community leadership development program.  “Take the long view,” summed panelist Johnson.  “Whether you serve in public leadership, business leadership, or non-profit, pay attention the effects of what you are doing. And be intentional about the effect you want your decisions to have over the long term.”