Thursday, April 21, 2011
Good news for Neighborhoods - Bernie Matsuno will lead Department of Neighborhoods
Matsuno will lead Department of Neighborhoods
One of the original staff members of Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods was named director Wednesday by Mayor Mike McGinn.
Bernie Matsuno was one of the first hires when the department was created in 1988 by then-director Jim Diers. Matsuno had been serving as interim director since Feb. 1.
"Bernie has great experience in the Department of Neighborhoods from its inception," McGinn said in a statement. "Her experience will help all city departments engage and partner with the public in improving our communities."
Matsuno had previously served as acting director under Mayor Greg Nickels, and then again this year when McGinn announced he was not reappointing Stella Chao, who had led the department for four years.
Chao was credited with reaching out to previously underrepresented communities including young people and immigrants. But critics said the department lacked a strong sense of mission under Chao and that she hadn't inspired staff in the way the popular Diers had. The department faced sharp cuts in the 2011 budget. Six neighborhood service centers were closed and three district-coordinator positions eliminated.
Matsuno previously worked with Jim Diers, the popular Neighborhoods director who was let go when Nickels took office in 2002. She helped create the department's Matching Fund program, which provides city money for neighborhood projects such as parks, playgrounds and landmark artwork such as the Fremont Troll and the China Gate in the International District.
Her workload will be tremendous as she rebuilds the tattered Department, perhaps even liberating it from it's forced and crippling alliances with the density-driven Department of Planning and Development, which has resulted in less than optimal outcomes in many Seattle neighborhoods.
Matsuno is certainly a dedicated and savvy leader, now she'll finally have the opportunity to follow in Dier's footsteps.