By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
I’ve had the privilege of writing in this blog about important African American Pierce County residents that have made powerful contributions to our lives close to home and beyond.
I have shared the fascinating story of Dr. Nettie Asberry who founded the local chapter of the NAACP in 1913, the beginning of a long and illustrious civil rights legacy. She was also an accomplished musician and earned her doctorate in an era when advanced degrees were unusual for women, especially women of color.
Another icon in Pierce County is Harold Moss. I’ve written about him a couple of times, including last fall when we sadly lost him at the age of 93. He made his mark in so many ways, but he was especially relevant to us as the Pierce County Council’s first Black councilmember. He will always be remembered for his passion to eliminate racist redlining covenants in neighborhoods in Tacoma.
In this year’s celebration of Black History Month, it is appropriate to look back to honor, learn from and pay homage to those leaders that blazed difficult but righteous paths. However, this year, I think it is particularly important to look forward as well. I am inspired by current leaders who I think could well become the icons we honor in future local BHM celebrations.
I’ve mentioned retired Judge Frank Cuthbertson as someone ready to carry the mantle forward. When we look back at this time in our community, he will loom large for his leadership, both on the bench and in our efforts to reform our criminal justice system. He recently stewarded the public review committee that brought recommendations forward to the Council for sweeping changes that will ensure that everyone is treated equitably in our justice system. That work is just beginning, but Judge Cuthbertson’s contributions are vital.
Another strong leader who played a critical role in this work, is Joseph Evans from the Department of Assigned Counsel. I’m grateful to Michael Kawamura for “lending” Joe to us to spearhead the Criminal Justice Workgroup – the internal justice review process that laid the foundation for Judge Cuthbertson’s work with our community members.
As part of our ongoing DEI video profile series, we asked Joe to talk about his perspective on creating a more fair and equitable justice system. I’m sure you will find his comments as inspiring as I do.
I’ll wrap up this week’s blog with another example of a rising leader: Judge Lisa Mansfield.
Until she was appointed by the Governor last fall to serve as a judge in the Lakewood Municipal Court, Lisa was also a member of the Department of Assigned Counsel. Thanks to her passion for children and families, Lisa was one of the founders of nationally recognized Baby Court, along with Judge Hickman.
Lisa won a Standing Ovation Award for her commitment and advocacy for restoring families when parents are motivated and willing to put in the work. You can learn more about Baby Court in this video profile:
We are blessed to have remarkable people bringing change and justice to our community. I’m proud to know them and learn from them.
As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability to you and our community, we are finishing up our first ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report. In it you will read profiles of other County colleagues who are bringing their skill, dedication, and personal values to work every day. I’m eager for you to read it, soon!
First published on the Pierce County website.