NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Metropolitan King County Council recognized the career and legacy of Ruth Woo on Sept. 18 by unanimously approving the creation of a fellowship program to help groom future leaders.
It’s the first such program named after an Asian American.
“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.”
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 1950s, 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.
Former City Councilmember Dolores Sibonga told the Northwest Asian Weekly she wants to push for a similar program through the city and state.
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 three to four months. The program would give priority to economically disadvantaged college graduates.
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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