To those who uplift the profession … and this outgoing WSBA President
By Kyle Sciuchetti
. . .
Last month I attended the funeral of former long-time Spokane City Attorney James “Jim” Sloane. A year out of law school, I worked for Jim in the Spokane City Attorney’s Office as an assistant city prosecutor. Friends who knew Jim—my parents included—described him as calm, thoughtful, and unassuming, and I was fortunate to experience these traits firsthand; he was everything you could hope for in a boss. At the funeral, I realized my feelings were not unique—many, many (certainly more than his family expected) colleagues came to say goodbye and relive old stories about Jim and the life he led. His is a legacy of leadership, relationships, and service, and he made a deep and permanent impact on the legal community.
As I traveled home from Jim’s service, I began thinking about this past year and my experience as the Washington State Bar Association president. There have been challenges, for sure, but my predominant feeling is one of thanks: for the relationships I have established and the way we came together to serve our profession at a time of unprecedented challenges. This is my last President’s Corner before handing the torch over to new leadership, and I can’t help but feel that I have come full circle, with Jim’s influence of putting people and service first guiding me to where I am today.
With these final words, I am going to honor Jim’s memory by focusing on what counts: recognizing the people committed to improving our Bar Association and helping its members deliver the best legal services—even, or perhaps especially, during the most unprecedented of times. These are people who not only helped me succeed as president, they helped us all succeed through their devotion to the advancement and improvement of the profession.
» Immediate Past President Rajeev Majumdar (Blaine). President Majumdar spent his own term navigating extraordinarily challenging conditions, including new WSBA leadership and the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. He did so with steadfast determination, diplomacy, and good humor. The first time I met President Majumdar, he greeted me with a hug, which was a true show of his leadership style and depth of caring for people. He set the bar high, and I am eternally grateful for his friendship and sage advice whenever I was called upon to make difficult decisions during my term.
» President-Elect Brian Tollefson (Tacoma). In 2018, Judge Tollefson and I were sworn in to the Board of Governors. As we started our service to the organization together, I think it’s safe to say neither of us could have predicted what was to come! A retired superior court judge, President-Elect Tollefson has earned a reputation as a soft-spoken yet direct contributor whose careful words always command attention. I look forward to his presidential year.
» Sunitha Anjilvel (District 1, Redmond). Governor Anjilvel was appointed to the Board of Governors in 2019 to fill a vacancy, and I am so pleased she will continue her service after winning re-election this year. She is a persuasive advocate for the tyrannized and oppressed, speaking her mind with authority and conviction. She has been a sounding board to keep me focused and centered throughout my term. She is a force for good for our organization, endlessly willing to step up to do important work.
» Carla J. Higginson (District 2, Friday Harbor). We may not always see eye-toeye, but I appreciate Governor Higginson’s tenacious focus on what she believes is in the best interest of the membership. While on the Legislative Committee, we worked together on policies and procedures to allow WSBA sections to better help legislators draft laws with the guidance of subject-area experts. She is not afraid to challenge other opinions, which makes us all better leaders.
» Lauren Boyd (District 3, Vancouver). Governor Boyd joined the Board when I became president, and I have been grateful to get to know her this past year. Her leadership contributions have been swift and measureable; she is a strong advocate, tireless contributor, and relentless problem solver. She continues a tradition of governors from southwest Washington who participate fully and robustly despite geographic distance from WSBA headquarters and most other members. She represents our district, and the entire state, expertly.
» Dan Clark (District 4, Yakima). Not only has Governor Clark been on the Board of Governors since 2017, he has served two terms as WSBA treasurer and was recently elected as the 2021-22 president-elect. His commitment to fiscal responsibility, transparency, and member engagement is unparalleled. He speaks up for his colleagues in Yakima as well as for members throughout the state. I’m glad to call him a friend and confidant.
» P.J. Grabicki (District 5, Spokane). Governor Grabicki’s catchphrase is, “Here’s what we oughta do!” Over the past three years, I have heard it dozens of times. As the Board wrestles with challenges, great and small, Governor Grabicki is quick to find simple and effective solutions. Typically, these ideas are accompanied by a colorful story or figure of speech. I’ve enjoyed working with Governor Grabicki immensely, and I always appreciate his wit and candor.
» Brett Purtzer (District 6, Tacoma). Governor Purtzer has long been considered a leader in his community, and our entire association has benefited from that skill and perspective during this, his first year as a governor. The breadth of his experience and knowledge has been invaluable, especially as the Board of Governors has tackled many policy decisions.
» Jean Kang (District 7-South, Seattle). I met Governor Kang shortly after I was elected to the Board of Governors in 2017. Immediately, I could see that she had a solid sense of right and wrong and the confidence and authority (she’s a great litigator!) to back up those convictions. Governor Kang listens, gives astute advice, and is a fierce advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. She would make a great president of the WSBA. She would make an even better judge, justice, or chief justice on our Supreme Court.
» Matthew Dresden (District 7-North, Seattle). Measured and thoughtful, Governor Dresden has brought a restrained, yet commanding, presence to the Board. He has the meritorious habit of listening more and talking less (which I try to emulate). He is trusted and respected, and his skills, experience, and knowledge will improve the organization, now and well into the future.
» Brent Williams-Ruth (District 8, Federal Way). As I have gotten to know Governor Williams-Ruth this past year, it’s clear he has a passion for doing what’s right. He champions justice and is not afraid to speak out when he believes it necessary. There’s no doubt Governor Williams-Ruth will have significant influence over the direction of the state Bar during his tenure on the Board and career as an attorney.
» Bryn Peterson (District 9, Mercer Island). Governor Peterson was elected by the Board in August to be WSBA’s next treasurer; it was an election with robust conversation about fiscal policy and transparency. With his skill, knowledge, and humility I know Governor Peterson will oversee the finances of the organization in the most dependable and responsible way.
» Tom McBride (District 10, Olympia). Governor McBride and I share a passion for the legislative process. His unparalleled knowledge of the Legislature and keen insight into the workings of the House and Senate have made him an exceptional member of the Board of Governors and the Legislative Committee. Governor McBride’s logical approach and folksy demeanor make him a powerful leader, and I have enjoyed every conversation we have shared. I will not hold it against him that he is the product of North Central High School (Spokane).11 Cross-town rival to my alma mater John R. Rogers High School (Spokane).
» Alec Stephens (Governor At-Large, Seattle). Governor Stephens began his service as Governor At-Large to the WSBA in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020. He has set himself apart as a fierce advocate and independent thinker for the WSBA. I relied on him heavily during my tenure, both as official parliamentarian and for his wealth of experience in leadership positions. He has my eternal thanks for all of the shrewd counsel during these past years. Like Governor McBride, I promise to no longer hold it against him that he’s a Miami Hurricane.22 In 1991, the University of Washington football team (my Huskies) went 12-0 and won the Rose Bowl, but had to split the national championship with the also 12-0 Miami Hurricanes.
» Russell Knight (Governor At-Large, Tacoma). More often than not, Governor Knight’s commonsensical eloquence and ability to persuade made the difference in a close vote. As the At-Large Governor representing new and young lawyers, Governor Knight demonstrates wisdom beyond his years. I know he will continue to give back to the WSBA and to the legal community well into the future.
» Hunter Abell (Governor At-Large, Seattle). Governor Abell has mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. He is polite and friendly, yet direct (perhaps a product of his Navy background). Governor Abell has thrown his energy into supporting the Small Town and Rural Committee, dedicated to strengthening and supporting the practice of law in rural communities. I am confident Governor Abell will volunteer his time and energy to worthy causes, as he has done his entire life, and our profession will be better for it.
» Joining the Board of Governors this year are Francis Adewale (District 5), Serena Sayani (District 7-South), and Jordan Couch (At-Large). All three have already participated in several Board meetings and trainings to be able to hit the ground running in the new fiscal year. Their fresh ideas and energy are inspiring; I look forward to seeing their contributions as leaders of this organization.
» Finally, my year would not have been as enjoyable or smooth without the leadership and staff of the WSBA. I’ve treasured my time working with every one of them. To Executive Director Terra Nevitt and her executive leadership team (Doug Ende, Renata de Carvalho Garcia, Sara Niegowski, Julie Shankland, Glynnis Klinefelter Sio, Jon Dawson, Kevin Plachy, Jorge Perez, Diana Singleton, and Ana LaNasa Selvidge) and staff members (Kirsten Abel, Paris Eriksen, Jennifer Olegario, Rex Nolte, and Shelly Bynum): I owe a debt of gratitude to you all.
All that we have accomplished this year is the result of hard work and wise leadership by these people, and many more. People committed to making a difference and improving the legal system and Bar Association. People from across the state who share ideas, collaborate, and compromise and who, in the end, develop lifelong relationships. People not unlike those that attended Jim’s funeral in Spokane in celebration of a colleague, community leader, boss, mentor, and friend. For me, that may be the greatest reward of serving as your president this past year. It has been an honor to serve.
1. Cross-town rival to my alma mater John R. Rogers High School (Spokane).
2. In 1991, the University of Washington football team (my Huskies) went 12-0 and won the Rose Bowl, but had to split the national championship with the also 12-0 Miami Hurricanes.