Meet The Evergrey’s Leadership Lab

Photo by OZinOH

Election Day is just a few weeks away. While policy nerds eagerly await their ballots appearing in their mailboxes, some Seattle voters are left wondering this: We’ve heard the candidates’ platforms, but what will they be like as leaders?

Evergrey reader Bo Zhang explored this idea and suggested a different set of questions we should be asking candidates. So we asked you to apply to join an experimental group of people who would chat with the candidates not about policy, but about their ability to learn and lead.

And now we’re excited to announce the group of readers in our Evergrey Leadership Lab.

Members of the group will be interviewing Seattle City Council candidates Lorena González, Pat Murakami, Teresa Mosqueda, and Jon Grant and mayoral hopefuls Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan to discuss their approaches to leadership and how they’ve learned from their mistakes over the years.

After our interviews with the candidates, our Leadership Lab members will share their takeaways. (BTW, we think all our local races are important but we’re a small team with limited capacity so we’re prioritizing mayoral and city council candidates this year.)

Now meet our Leadership Lab:

Shana Bestock was born in Seattle, grew up in the Central District/Madison Valley, and now lives in Wallingford. A theater artist and educator, she is passionate about creative space, especially for youth, and the ways in which artistic endeavors can strengthen civic engagement. Questions she is most excited to ask candidates: “How have your definitions and approaches to equity, inclusion, and diversity changed over the years?” and “Where are you now in your relationship to your own white fragility?”

Elliott Bronstein believes these are the most challenging times Seattle faced since he moved here almost forty years ago. Questions he is most excited to ask candidates: “How do you intend to apply a racial equity lens to city government, and how do you define ‘community’?” He’s also curious what the candidates do for fun.

Mellina White Cusack is a West Seattle resident who’s lived in the city for more than a decade. She wants more of her neighbors to understand how government works, and how our community can help make it work better. A question she is most excited to ask candidates: “Describe a time you invested a lot of energy and resources into a project that didn’t turn out as planned. How did you course correct?”

Warren Etheredge is the founder of The Warren Report and a founding faculty member of TheFilmSchool and The Red Badge ProjectQuestions he is most excited to ask candidates: “How do you feel when confronted with a well-reasoned yet conflicting viewpoint?” and “What is the secret to restoring meaningful discourse in government and in our communities?”

Priya Gupta, who has called Seattle her home for three years and counting, joined the Lab because she strongly agrees with the idea that judging policy platforms is an incomplete lens through which society selects candidate. A question she is most excited to ask candidates: “How do you keep in touch with the views of people who disagree with you?”

Rachael Ludwick moved to Seattle about eight years ago and lives in North Beacon Hill. She’s most interested in helping people understand how politics and government work and how they can influence them, especially after seeing it operate in her local Democratic party org. Questions she is most excited to ask candidates: “Have you ever been frustrated or angry and take it out on a subordinate or member of a team you have to work with? How did you recover and regain trust? What kinds of tools do you use to avoid doing that in the first place?”

George Perantatos has lived in Seattle for 16 years and lives in Ravenna. He wants to see a more diverse range of views reach our elected official’s ears, especially from those that don’t have the money to buy time. Question he is most excited to ask candidates: “How do you handle hearing ideas and feedback that are sound but completely counter to your own?”

Eric Svaren is a 32-year resident of Seattle and has worked for the city for 8 years in the 90s, including a stint on council staff. He is married with two sons who attended Seattle Schools. He is interested in participating in the candidate forum because he doesn’t think we focus enough on candidate readiness to lead—the community or the city government. Rather, we focus on their stands on issues. They only know their issues. Democracy is a fragile experiment in our country, especially lately, it takes leaders who are able to both lead well and steward our democracy. Questions he is most excited to ask candidates: “When have you failed? What happened? How did you recover? What did you learn about yourself as a leader and person?”

Austin Valeske has lived in Seattle for just over a year and a half. In addition to working as a software engineer, he does community organizing work with the Neighborhood Action Coalition and other advocacy groups. He cares deeply that Seattle’s next mayor is genuinely committed to including our city’s most disadvantaged communities in policy discussions.Question he is most excited to ask candidates: “What’s a personal opinion you’ve had and changed in the last year? Extra points if it’s related to policies you’re proposing.”