Wow! What a year. The Seattle Times editorial board’s annual appreciation of people who improve our region could not help but focus on those who have helped us through the pandemic and are working for systemic societal change after the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their work, the work of all of us, sadly is not done yet. But let’s take a moment to appreciate the contributions of these individuals and organizations. Starting at the bottom and going clockwise:

1. Essential workers: If there’s a silver lining in the pandemic, it may be our newfound appreciation of essential workers who keep us healthy, make food available and keep the lights on. From doctors and nurses to teachers and police and farmworkers and supermarket checkers, they are all heroes this year.

2. Election officials, and volunteers, around the state, including King County Elections Director Julie Wise and Secretary of State Kim Wyman, for landing another credible mail-in election.

3. Andrea Caupain Sanderson, Michelle Merriweather, Angela Jones and T’wina Nobles who, together with Seattle Foundation, founded the Black Future Co-op Fund, a fund to advance the wealth, health, resilience and culture of Black communities in Washington state.

4. We humbly submit that the role of the local free press has never been more important in our democracy. Whether print or online, broadcast, daily or weekly, journalists have worked hard to bring news of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests and elections. Omari Salisbury, a Seattle-based citizen journalist with Converge Media, was active in documenting Seattle protests.

5. Ellen Kuwana‘s simple act of bringing meals to harried COVID-19 testing lab workers at the University of Washington blossomed into We Got This Seattle, a community effort that’s delivered food and coffee to more than 20,000 health care workers at some 70 different sites this year. Kuwana, a science writer and editor, rallied donations from the public and restaurants, which provided donated and discounted food despite their own struggles.


6. Roxana Pardo Garcia, who started Alimentando al Pueblo, which distributes culturally sensitive food to the Latino community.

7. and 8: Two members of Washington’s congressional delegation have emerged as national leaders across the Democratic spectrum. U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Medina, is chair of the centrist New Democrat Coalition and Seattle’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal is chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

9. Bill Gates, one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, rose to the global health crisis in extraordinary ways. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation quickly pivoted to pandemic response early this year, helping accelerate vaccine development and coordinate deployment. Disease modeling from Gates-funded experts in Seattle also emerged as an invaluable tool for states, federal governments and others.

10. Here and elsewhere, peaceful protesters inspired by George Floyd’s killing are forcing an overdue racial reckoning. While some protests devolved into riots and, lately, sophomoric vandalism, that doesn’t negate the urgent need to address police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system. In Washington, that’s led to numerous policy changes, including legislative proposals to increase police accountability statewide.

11. When Seattle Public Schools were forced to pivot to remote learning, the tech and innovation workers in this civic engagement group stepped up to help. They formed a volunteer tech support hotline and used what they learned to advise the district on digital equity. One of their recommendations, a new grant-funded Digital Equity Manager who will work with the tech community and the district, will help make online learning a reality for every student in SPS.

12. The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. The institute’s sophisticated work on COVID-19 projections and its leaders are go-to sources in government and media for what is going on in the pandemic.


13. In one of the most difficult periods facing the Seattle Police Department, Acting Chief Adrian Diaz stepped up admirably to fill the vacancy created by Chief Carmen Best’s departure. Best retired early after the City Council undercut her with punitive, ill-conceived budget cuts. Diaz quickly reorganized the department to increase patrol staffing amid plunging budgets and morale, and committed to a thoughtful re-imagining of policing.

14. The Seattle Storm‘s fourth national WNBA championship win was a much-needed shot of good news in a dreary year. Their skill and integrity are an inspiration on and off the court.

15. COVID testing! Jobless claims! Food banks! Wildfires! Elections security! Protests! Washington National Guard members have been coming to the aid of state residents and state agencies as never before during the 2020 pandemic. Their extra hands, brains and muscles have been helping put out fires — actual, mischievous and virtual (as in hacking of the jobless claims system) — and have been crucial during this very difficult year.