People For Puget Sound Executive Director, Kathy Fletcher joins 40 over 40!

Date October 10, 2010

Kathy FletcherThe news and images of the American oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have shocked and saddened us all.  It’s hard to imagine our own picturesque Seattle shoreline and wildlife ever experiencing a disaster of this proportion.  As we consider the many people who have dedicated themselves to keeping the Northwest beautiful (and an extraordinary place to live), Kathy Fletcher and the team at People For Puget Sound come to mind. They have been protecting and restoring the health of our land and water for almost 20 years.  Kathy graciously agreed to sit down with us and is our newest inductee into the “40 over 40” – a group of people that we admire and who inspire us.

Kathy Fletcher is the Founder and Executive Director of People For Puget Sound, a citizens’ organization formed in 1991 to protect and restore Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits.  She also sits on the Northwest Straits Commission and the Puget Sound Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination Board.

Kathy previously chaired the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, a state agency formed in 1985 to develop a comprehensive plan to clean up and protect the Sound and Straits.  During the Carter Administration, she served on the White House Domestic Policy Staff, where she handled environmental and natural resource issues.  She has taught environmental policy and nonprofit management at the University of Washington.  She has also worked for the Environmental Defense Fund and several other environmental organizations. Her career includes five years heading environmental, energy conservation and other programs at Seattle City Light.

Kathy has served on many nonprofit organization boards, including the national Sierra Club and the National Environmental Trust, and is currently a member of the boards of Restore America’s Estuaries and the Washington Foundation for the Environment.  Kathy majored in biology at Harvard University and is a native of Seattle, where she resides with her husband, environmental attorney Ken Weiner. They have a grown son, Josh.

How did you earn your first dollar?
Probably babysitting.  I was a lifeguard at Laurelhurst and taught swimming to kids all through high school and college.

What do you appreciate about being over 40?
I think when you turn 40, people start taking you seriously.

What or who inspired you to get where you are today?
My mom has always been a big inspiration to me.  She has always been a pioneer – a lot of firsts – she is a lawyer, the first woman to join her law firm, the first woman partner, first woman President of the Bar, and she is a 9th circuit federal judge at 87 years old.  She travels a lot too.

What advice do you have for the under 40 crowd?
My advice would be to stick with something long enough to really make a difference.

What do you still have to achieve?
I have been working for many years to protect the health of Puget Sound and that is still a goal I have to achieve.  We’ve done a lot and there is still a lot to achieve.  My goal is to leave People For Puget Sound in a healthy condition to carry on the fight for as long as it takes.  The law and the goal is to have a healthy Puget Sound by 2020.  This won’t happen without People For Puget Sound pushing.  It’s a good goal and adds some pressure.  I thought we would be further along by now.  It’s challenging to move the political system and inspire enough people to do the right thing for the health of Puget Sound.

What are you passionate about?
Saving the sound, my family, wild blackberries (she wouldn’t disclose her secret place), nature and justice.  When I retire, I will have time to pursue all of these things.

How do you balance work and life?
I am lucky to have a job that is so much of my life that I don’t have a conflict between my life and my job.  I want to spend time with my family, time at my cabin, sailing and travel.  I’m good at blocking time to get away from work without dropping any balls at work.  I don’t have any boundaries with workdays and weekends.

What book is on your nightstand?
“Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick.  The book is an in-depth examination of the Pilgrims.  I started reading it when I went to Cape Cod and saw the Provincetown monument where the pilgrims landed.  I wanted to read more about it and my mom recommended it.

What is in your ipod?
An eclectic mix with proportionately more Bruce Springsteen than the average person might have.

What other career would you like to try?
The other career that I would like to pursue is a tug boat captain.  I love being on the water and I would love to captain a working tug boat.

What other person would you like to meet – living or dead?
I love meeting people and I’m not really a celebrity hound.  I find it interesting to talk to people like old timers from Puget Sound.  I enjoy hearing the depth of their experience.  I’ve met with Presidents and Vice Presidents in the past, but I would love to meet with Barack Obama.  And I have had the honor of meeting one of the planet’s heroes – Wangari Maathai when she was honored by the Sierra Club.

What superpower do you want?
I would like to have the power to save Puget Sound.  The power to right wrongs.  Think about the oil spill in the gulf, it was so predictable and so preventable that it’s enraging.  We find ourselves in policy agreements in Washington State and the oil companies say that things are so safe and under control and that they are ready to respond.  Legislators know that this isn’t true but still they vote from what the oil companies have told them.  I would like the power to expose the truth so that the people responsible have to recognize it.  Like the commercials that are not true.  Look what Shell did in the Niger Delta.  I’m listening to the NPR interview with Jim Fallows right now.

Favorite movie?
My recent favorite is “Invictus”.  If I’m channel surfing then it’s “Sleepless in Seattle”.

Guilty pleasure?
I gave up ice cream.  I would have to say it’s the New York Times crossword puzzle (not Mon/Tues and done with a pen).

What is your favorite quote?
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  – John Muir

Read more about People For Puget Sound at  Become a Citizen of the Puget Sound!  There are numerous opportunities to take action through education, volunteer with other citizens or the gift of a donation.

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