It’s not just the end of a decade; it’s also the beginning of a new one. As we ring in the 2020s, we’ll see the emergence of new changemakers. In every field — from the arts to politics, to sports and beyond — there are many whose work this decade lays the groundwork for influence in the next.
These people have already changed the way we talk about race in this city, transformed the arts scene, made waves in politics, fought for environmental change and boldly taken a knee for justice. We expect to see and hear much more from them in the future.
Seattle police chief
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, who was appointed in August 2018, is only the second person in the past 30 years to rise through the ranks to become chief. She’s sought to improve relationships between the department and residents through her willingness to discuss racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, and by increasing diversity among officers and department leaders to better reflect the community. Moving into 2020, key questions will be whether the department is released from its yearslong federal consent decree, and how it continues to face the challenges of policing a growing city where officers increasingly encounter complex social issues like homelessness, mental-health disorders and addiction.
President and CEO, Boeing
David Calhoun, named president and CEO of Boeing last month after Dennis Muilenburg was fired for his handling of the two fatal 737 MAX crashes, will lead the region’s biggest manufacturer from his Chicago headquarters. Considered an experienced corporate turnaround hand, the exec will be in charge of regaining the trust of regulators, airlines and passengers, and resuming production of a jet on which tens of thousands of local people work.
In 2019, Maple Valley’s Brandi Carlile went from LGBTQ folk favorite to nationally acclaimed, Grammy-winning celebrity on the strength of the 2018 album “By the Way, I Forgive You.” She’s been nominated for three more Grammys this year and you can expect her to continue speaking out against sexism in country music and promoting charitable causes.
When elected in 2017, Jenny Durkan became the first woman mayor of Seattle in more than 90 years, and its second consecutive openly gay executive. In the past two years, Durkan helped persuade voters to pass education and library levies, secured a tax on Uber rides and engineered a homeless-services merger with King County. But Seattle is still grappling with housing costs, street homelessness and a police-reform consent decree. Whether Durkan can make serious progress on those challenges in the next two years may decide whether her political career spans the next decade or peters out.
Chief research officer, Seattle Indian Health Board; director, Urban Indian Health Institute
An enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Abigail Echo-Hawk has authored and commissioned several reports that have contributed significant data to the national conversation about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). She was integral in writing Seattle City Council Resolution 31900, which acknowledges violence against indigenous women and girls, and vows to address the crisis by hiring a special liaison, investing in human services, consulting with tribal governments, improving data collection and training police.
Attorney, activist, artist
Nikkita Oliver gained attention by leading the organizing work for No New Youth Jail and Seattle Peoples Party, and raised her profile further by running for Seattle mayor in 2017, almost making it past the primary. She played a role in drafting the resolution for Seattle’s divestment from the Dakota Access Pipeline and continues as co-executive director of Creative Justice, a youth-led program for arts-based alternatives to incarceration. Oliver carries political clout, but didn’t run for office in 2019. Whether she chooses a future in electoral politics or community activism, perhaps related to criminal-justice reform, Seattle progressives have their eye on Oliver.
Best known for her breakout, New York Times bestseller “So You Want to Talk About Race,” Ijeoma Oluo has had a tremendous impact in exposing and addressing issues of race, feminism, economic inequality, and how all of these issues intersect for many communities in Seattle and nationwide. As a much-in-demand speaker, she’ll bring her powerful support for social justice to stages around the Northwest and beyond in 2020.
Stage artist, activist
This theater dynamo has been seemingly everywhere on and behind Seattle stages in recent years. From writing and performing the solo show “Dragon Lady” (the first in a planned trilogy about three generations of her family) to writing and directing “7th and Jackson” (about three friends growing up in Seattle’s Chinatown International District), Porkalob is creating award-winning, inclusive work. She has new shows slated for Seattle stages next year, and her star is also rising outside the city.
Soccer player, activist
In 2019, Rapinoe, with her pink hair and “look at me” goal-celebration pose, led the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) to a Women’s World Cup championship and won a slew of awards. But she’s perhaps even more widely known for her activism: Rapinoe and her USWNT teammates sued U.S. Soccer for equal pay; she’s an out lesbian and active advocate of LGBTQ+ rights; and she was one of the first athletes to join Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and the treatment of people of color. Next up: Rapinoe has endorsed 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, and the USWNT makes a run at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Editor, writer, activist
Editor of the Last Real Indians and ubiquitous activist for environmental and social justice, Matt Remle helped author several resolutions, including one that made Seattle the first major city to vote to divest from Wells Fargo over the Dakota Access Pipeline (the city later renewed its contract with the bank) and one acknowledging Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle. Recently, he played a key role in helping Licton Springs Park become the first Native American site in Seattle to earn landmark status and he’s actively mentoring a new generation of Native American leaders.
Writer, comedian, activist
From humble beginnings writing chuckle-inducing capsule movie reviews at The Stranger to regular bylines in The New York Times and a best-selling memoir that became a half-hour comedy on Hulu (“Shrill”), Seattle’s Lindy West has been a leading voice for common-sense feminism, fat acceptance and the Shout Your Abortion destigmatization campaign. Be on the lookout for more print, digital, radio and TV work, including an episode of Shonda Rhimes’ upcoming Netflix series “Notes on Love,” co-written with West’s husband Ahamefule J. Oluo (brother of Ijeoma Oluo, above).
CORRECTION: An early version of this story gave the incorrect job title for Abigail Echo-Hawk.
Daniel Beekman, Megan Burbank, Lauren Frohne, Rami Grunbaum, Sara Jean Green, Lynn Jacobson, Stefanie Loh, Crystal Paul and Janet Tu contributed to this report.