By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Born in Seoul, Sung Yang is the chief of staff for King County Executive Dow Constantine. In this role, Yang oversees and directs the executive’s major initiatives, the central coordination between policy, communications, and external relations, and the executive’s administrative staff and office operations.
Prior to joining the executive’s office, Yang was the chief of staff for Seattle City Light and served in senior posts for former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, former Gov. Gary Locke (as deputy director of a state agency), and former Seattle City Councilmember Martha Choe. Yang was an attorney prior to entering public service.
Yang earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Washington and currently serves as vice president of the Wing Luke Asian Museum Board of Trustees. He has also served on the boards of Asian Counseling Referral Service, Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation, Northwest Asian American Theatre, and is a past president of Korean American Professional Society (now the Korean American Coalition). Yang also taught at Seattle University’s Institute of Public Service. <!–more–>
1. Why is it important to you to contribute to your community?
The Asian community is part of my identity and heritage. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the network and support of family, friends, mentors, elected officials, community leaders, and activists.
2. What does the word diversity mean to you and how do you foster it in your work?
Diversity is the new paradigm. The world is rapidly changing, and power is more broadly and equitably distributed than at any other time. Achieving lasting progress may still be difficult, but more people are now “at the table” who historically had been denied. I’m fortunate to be a part of a government who renamed itself after Martin Luther King, Jr. and reflects his values, and to work for a boss who is committed to equity and social justice.
3. What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work?
In politics, many issues — particularly the big important ones — can get polarized quickly. Getting creative in your problem solving in order to find compromise or a third way —can be incredibly challenging, but also if done right, greatly rewarding.
4. What was one of your proudest moments in your work?
Accomplishing something others had said couldn’t be done. This past summer, [King] County Executive Constantine needed a supermajority of county councilmembers to enact a $20 vehicle licensing fee in order to prevent drastic cuts to metro bus service that otherwise would have been required over the next two years. Given the political makeup of the council, most political pundits had written this effort off. But hard work, a galvanized public, a good strategy, and some interesting backroom drama helped us achieve success. This was a fun day at the office.
5. Can you finish this sentence? “My work excites me because …”
It’s the perfect job for someone with a short attention span, such as me. Also, I learn something new every day and connect with different people from all walks of life.
6. If you could pick only one trait, what trait do you think is the most important for a leader?
Vision. A leader must see the destination and the way.
7. If you could compare your leadership style to that of a historical figure, who would that be?
Jamie Moyer (former Mariners pitcher). His pitches weren’t overpowering or fast, but he still got a lot of strikeouts through cunning and pinpoint delivery.
8. If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what other job do you think you’d be good at?
Race car driver. I hate going slow.
9. Do you have a secret talent? What is it?
I have no talent. Why do you think I had to attend law school? Luckily, my wife [Celebrate Asia! Chair and Onvia Executive SoYoung Kwon] oozes musical talent, so hopefully my daughter [Sophie] still has a fighting chance.
10. If you could describe yourself in only three words, what would they be?
Mostly fun loving. (end)
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.