Gov. Inslee names new executive director for Puget Sound Partnership

Long overdue. We hope she is as good an administrator and executive as the Governor believes. We wish her the best, and hope that she gets out of Tacoma and into the field quickly to meet the many varied people doing the grassroots work that the Partnership funds and supports. She apparently has only a local “East Side” knowledge of environmental issues, and no experience in the broader Puget Sound Basin issues, such as the relationships between state agencies, federal agencies, NGOs and Tribes. The problem of course, is establishing herself among those entities and learning the unique issues of collaborating to get things done. Her various predecessors seemed to rarely show up to meet us out here in the ‘hinterlands’. We had the feeling it was all decision-making from the top down. It’s seemed to have been a vacuum for a couple of years now with re-orgs with little to show for the internal churn.  So we have just tended to do what we had to, in order to work with them,and continue the heavy lifting locally. We’d love to see more leadership and better planning of things like timing of grants from them.


Today Gov. Jay Inslee announced his appointment of Sheida R. Sahandy as the new Executive Director for the Puget Sound Partnership, the agency formed by the state Legislature to lead the recovery of the Puget Sound. Sahandy has worked for the City of Bellevue since 2006, where she has served as the Assistant to City Manager. Her appointment is effective February 4.

“I am very excited that Sheida Sahandy will be leading this effort. She has a record of taking on complex challenges and moving the needle in the right direction,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “From her years as a corporate attorney, to leading Bellevue’s rise as an innovator and leader in environmental and social responsibility, Sheida has demonstrated the ability to bring private and public interests together toward a common mission. She knows how to work successfully across sectors, across jurisdictions, and across diverse subject matter areas to achieve measurable results. She is the person we need at the helm of the Puget Sound Partnership.”

As the Partnership’s new Executive Director, the Governor is looking for Sahandy to focus the work of the Partnership on the most critical and effective projects, work with other state agencies and partners to maximize alignment of efforts, and increase public engagement in Puget Sound recovery.

“We need to ensure that people appreciate the truly critical role the Puget Sound plays in every aspect of our lives – economy, ecology, and why we call this area home,” said Inslee. “I want my grandkids and their grandkids to be able to play safely in the Puget Sound, to fish for salmon they can eat, to dig for clams and oysters they can cook over a campfire. To make that happen, we need to accelerate the work being done right now.”

Sahandy has led strategic initiatives for the City of Bellevue, and was responsible for creating the City’s first city-wide environmental stewardship initiative. “The Puget Sound is a national treasure and the Governor has made it clear that Puget Sound recovery is one of his top environmental priorities,” said Sahandy. “We are facing increasingly pressing issues, such as the viability of our shellfish industry, as well as the foundational goal of ensuring we create a sustainable environment in this state that is the bedrock of a sustainable economy – the need for action has never been more compelling or urgent.”

Sahandy earned her Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she concentrated her studies on climate, energy and environment. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University’s School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied environmental design and the biological sciences.

And this from Martha Konigsgaard, the current Chair of the Leadership Council for the Partnership. Martha is likely to be a very good mentor for Ms. Sahandy. 

I am happy to share with you that Governor Inslee has appointed Sheida Sahandy as the Puget Sound Partnership’s new Executive Director. The search has been lengthy, but the results are a win for Puget Sound.

Sheida comes from the City of Bellevue, where she has been Assistant to the City Manager. During her time there, she has demonstrated her commitment to innovation and bringing private and public interests together. Sheida was responsible for creating the City of Bellevue’s first city-wide environmental stewardship initiative. She also created the City’s first suite of environmental indicators and targets, brought multiple organizations together to form the C-& New Energy Partnership, and spearheaded public-private partnerships that encourage environmental and corporate social responsibility. Sheida earned her Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she concentrated her studies on climate, energy and environment. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University’s School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied environmental design and the biological sciences. In addition to her public experience, Sheida spent several years as a large-firm corporate attorney.

We’ve come a long way this past year. The state Legislature allocated a record $394 million to Puget Sound priorities. On the federal level, we have a new and energized Puget Sound Recovery Caucus ready to work for us in Washington, D.C. Locally our partners have come together to identify high-priority projects throughout the region. Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund dollars have helped move forward the state’s largest seawall removal and a 400-acre tidal marsh restoration project that is the largest of its kind in the state. Our State of the Sound report shows that we are making progress on indicators that respond quickly. And that’s just a taste.

The distance we have traveled along the path to Puget Sound recovery this past year speaks volumes about the talent, dedication and passion of the Puget Sound Partnership’s staff, Boards, Panels, Scientists and the hundreds of concerned and engaged citizen partners who want to make Puget Sound safe and healthy for the people who live here today, and the generations who will follow.

Creating a healthy Puget Sound is complex work. It’s about human health and quality of life. It’s about sustaining the populations of our native species. It’s about jobs and the economy. It’s about honoring our tribal treaty rights. The diversity of this essential mandate takes a special leader who can listen, analyze, and act in a way that brings people together and puts priorities into action.

Sheida’s talent for working across sectors and jurisdictions, her ability to balance the many competing needs of the region, and her desire to jump energetically into the work of the Partnership at this critical juncture to make a positive difference bode well for the region and the long term cause.   I believe Sheida is more than up to this task and intend on doing everything I can to help her be successful as I am sure you all will.

Thank you for the role you play in this effort. Please join me in welcoming Sheida to this important post as we continue the work to heal this remarkable place we call home.

Martha Kongsgaard

Chair, Leadership Council

Earth Economics – A new way of valuing ecosystems

David Batker of Earth Economics

David Batker of Earth Economics presents their analysis of Clallam County ecosystems.

The Quarterly meeting of the Strait Environmental Recovery Network (ERN) met on Friday in Port Angeles. The ERN is chartered by the Puget Sound Partnership to get organizations together to prioritize work on recovery projects along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This month, we had David Batker, chief economist and Executive Director, of Earth Economics report on their work done for Clallam County. EE created a report called “Policy Implications of the Economic Benefits of Feeder Bluffs and 12 other Ecosystems” as part of the SMP. Sound boring? Think again…

EE has formed some new models to help understand the economic benefits of these ecosystems and their recovery. This is really revolutionary analysis. Constantly, opposition to environmental programs  rail about how fixing the environment is “too expensive” and “costs jobs”. This analysis turns that on it’s head. It makes it very hard to argue that it isn’t the *right thing* to fix the environment, from a purely economic perspective.

EE has done work around the world, and this is really ground breaking stuff. You can find more about them at

The entire talk can be downloaded or listened to at:

2013 State of the Sound

2013 PSP Indicators

The Puget Sound Partnership has released it’s “2013 State of the Sound” report. The whole report can be found here. The chart shown here is on Page 70. Obviously, when you cut to just the indicators, things are not doing well.

Yes, that’s a real URL .

I’ll just net this out for you. Some summary data from the report. By the way, the 2012 report appears to no longer be available on their web site.. It would be nice to have the comparison information.



Shhh…Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership At Work – Salish Sea Communications

Mike Sato hits it right on the head. It’s time for Govenor Inslee to show us what this bureaucracy is doing, and if he’s really behind it or not. Getting it a leader that can actually lead would be a great start. No one would likely cry for it if they kill it and reconstitute it anew. It’s become a behind the scenes player in Olympia and virtually unknown outside of the Capital. A real shame, frankly. We had high hopes for it, but environmentalism appears to be joke and a pawn in the power politics in Olympia. Use it to garner votes, then ignore it for 2 to 4 years. Maybe when we are down to one Orca they’ll actually get serious.

Tony Wright to leave the Puget Sound Partnership

In a letter to his partners, Tony Wright, the Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership, announced his resignation and intent to leave in the near future. He is staying until a new ED is found.

This is quite shocking news. Mr. Wright only took the helm of the Partnership last summer, after the resignation of Gerry O”Keefe, who himself had not been in the ED role for very long.

In meeting with members of the Marine Resource Committees at their annual conference last winter, Mr. Wright was all a bundle of fire, an excellent motivational speaker. He left the distinct taste that this was a man who was going to get things done. About the only thing he appears to have done, is reorganized the Partnership.

It is easy to assume that this is very bad news for the Partnership, and that Governor Inslee has been behind this latest change.  Mr. Wright had the experience and background to help coordinate big, government based projects, having come from the Army Corp of Engineers. –UPDATE AS OF 1/21/2013- In a letter to “Partners” which is published elsewhere on this blog, it’s made clear to the public that Tony’s short term nature was known all along to the insiders, and that, in order to not seem like a lame duck from day one, he kept it closely guarded. While it is understandable, it doesn’t stop those of us looking for direction and guidance from the Partnership wanting to see some longer term stability than 6 months. It’s still unexplained as to why a change needed to happen to bring in Tony in the first place, as it was not made clear as to why Gerry had to leave. Couldn’t he have been kept on six more months? To those on the outside looking in, it just seems like churn. 

It gives some possible clarity as to  why Billie Frank Jr. in an interview in the Seattle Times on January 17th, was quoted as saying, “

“The state of Washington, all they know is process,” Frank said. “It’s ‘we gotta have a blue-ribbon panel, another meeting.’ You get processed out. God almighty, you never see anything coming back. What the hell?

“The directors retire and move away to Arizona and Florida and play golf, and they haven’t done a … thing for the natural resources.”

UPDATE AS OF 1/21/2013 – While I have no idea if Billie was referring to Tony’s leaving, the timing of the article and statement seemed very suspect. It hits awfully close to the issue at hand. 

As to Mr. Wright’s saying that he is ‘returning to his company”.  A standard procedure of exiting EDs is to jump to a consultancy, until the next major opportunity comes along.

UPDATE AS OF 1/21/2013 – Apparently this may have been misinterpreted by some readers. This was not meant as anything more than an explanation that this kind of behavior is very normal. I would not be surprised if Tony is in another ED role (or higher as Obama has a lot of roles to fill in the environmental world) by the end of the year. 

We wish Mr. Wright well, but can’t help but wonder whether the Partnership is as “on the right path” as Mr. Wright claims. David Dicks got the Partnership up and running quickly, but left under a cloud. Gerry O’Keefe had just seemed to get his feet under him when he left, with no real explanation from the Governor. Now Mr. Wright exits. Having been in a large bureaucratic for profit company for many years, this kind of reorganization and executive churn  is rarely good for staff morale.  It often leads to even less getting done than usual.

UPDATE AS OF 1/21/2013 – Some readers seem to have taken issue with this statement. Bureaucracies by their nature are slow moving. Nothing exceptional about the PSP in that regard.  While the staff of any agency can get along and keep moving it forward without an Executive,  the lack of leadership at the top often stifles new initiatives, and decision-making.  New leadership that comes in takes time to figure out the organization and it’s issues, as well as it’s external partners and customers.  Often that takes 6 to 12 months to happen. Re-organizing isn’t an end in itself, but a means to one.  I’ve seen bureaucracies that do it sometimes twice a year, with little to show for the effort, which takes time away from staff doing the work that makes a difference. We hope that the next leader of the PSP will be as dynamic and able to launch new efforts as Tony was. 

And so, we, who are out in the watersheds doing the work, whether educational, protecting habitat, helping write rules for the counties, enforcing those rules, or otherwise ‘getting dirty’ and sometimes volunteering hundreds of hours a year  without pay, will continue to do that, as we have been, while the Partnership leadership comes and goes, and has to relearn who we are and what we are doing. We hope that the Partnership, under Governor Inslee, finally gets itself on a firm footing, and pitches in, in a larger way, to help.

Puget Sound Partnership honors six West Sound Champions

Congratulations to Chris Dunagan, a reporter that has spent decades covering the issues of the Sound.

Today the Puget Sound Partnership honored six “Puget Sound Champions” from the North Central/West Sound Action Area during a ceremony in Bremerton. These individuals and organizations were recognized for their exceptional work protecting and restoring habitat, cleaning up polluted water, and engaging the community in implementing the Action Agenda – the Partnership’s regional plan to clean up Puget Sound.

Read the rest of the story at

Gregoire announces 280 additional acres of Hood Canal now open for shellfish harvest – Bremerton Patriot

Little by little, with enforcement of septic tank inspection and upgrade, and adding of wastewater treatment, we are getting back our shores to where they need to be. A little good news…

Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced that an additional 280 acres of Hood Canal shellfish beds in Mason County have been upgraded by the state Department of Health from “prohibited” to ”approved” for commercial harvest. With this upgrade, the region is 51 percent of the way toward reaching the goal to reopen 7,000 acres of shellfish beds between 2007 and 2020, a vision outlined in the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda.</blockquote

Read the rest of the story at

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