Clockwise from top left, Esther Lucero, Evelyn Fielding Lopez, Lisa L. Atkinson, Rep. Jay Rodne, Rep. Jeff Morris, and Sen. John McCoy.

Career Moves For Northwest Native Leaders

Richard Walker

Several Native American leaders have been appointed to key positions in their fields of expertise, contributing to government, health care, justice, and public policy in Washington state.

Lucero succeeds Forquera at Seattle Indian Health Board

Esther Lucero, Navajo, is the new chief executive officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board. She succeeds longtime CEO Ralph Forquera, Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, who retired.

Lucero was formerly director of programs and strategic development at the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health in San Francisco, California. She is earning a master’s in public policy from Mills College and, according to an announcement by the health board, brings “robust experience in state- and national- level health policy work, including extensive knowledge of federally qualified health centers and urban Indian health issues.

“My first experience with SIHB came through my participation with the Summer Medical Education Program and through shadowing Dr. Terry Maresca,” Lucero said in an announcement of her appointment.

“I met Ralph Forquera on that day. He shook my hand and said, ‘When you are finished with school, come work for us.’ Ten years later, I am blessed to have the opportunity to carry on the legacy built by the dynamic team at SIHB. I am committed to joining this team with humility, confidence and innovation to ensure urban Indian health is strengthened for generations to come.”

Lucero joins the health board team on November 9.

Health board president Chris Stearns, Navajo, said of her appointment, “The board was extremely impressed by Esther’s experience, leadership and vision … We have no doubt that Esther is going to build on the solid foundation laid by Ralph Forquera and that she is going to lead the SIHB into a bright and promising future.”

During his 25-year tenure, Forquera expanded the non-profit organization’s role as an advocate for and provider of quality, culturally competent, and accessible health and human services for Native American and Alaska Natives in the greater Seattle-King County area.

The health board is state-recognized and its ambulatory health care services are nationally accredited through the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. Because of its central location, accessibility via public transit, and host of services, it has emerged as a community health center for people who are non-Native, unenrolled, or on Medicare.

“The Seattle Indian Health Board is one of the most respected, innovative health boards in the country,” Stearns said in an earlier interview. “We just bought our building from the city for $1 million. Ralph is leaving us in amazing condition.”

SIHB, founded in 1970, operates the Leschi Center Clinic at 611 S. 12th Ave., Seattle; and the Thunderbird Treatment Center at 9236 S. Renton Ave., Seattle. Services include medical, dental, behavioral health, chemical dependency, traditional health services, pharmacy, nutrition, youth and elders programs, and education outreach.

The SIHB also presents several community events, among them the Adeline Garcia Community Awards Banquet in February, Spirit of Indigenous People Festival in May, Indigenous Cultures Day and Halloween Health Fair in October, and conferences on health.

Lopez appointed executive director of state Public Disclosure Commission

The Washington Public Disclosure Commission has appointed Evelyn Fielding Lopez, Maori, to the position of executive director.

A former assistant attorney general, Lopez served in various management roles in the state Attorney General’s Office, most recently as the chief of the Labor & Industries Division from 2005-14.

Lopez is a native of New Zealand and is from the Ngati Huri of the Ngati Raukawa (Maori), Pititu Marae. She earned a law degree from the University of Washington.

Commission Chairwoman Katrina Asay said of Lopez, “[She] brings to the commission an ideal mix of proven strategic and visionary leadership, a history of collaboration, and integrity.

“This is a pivotal time for the PDC. The Legislature has given the commission the resources it needs to replace outdated filing software, develop a better website, and make other overdue upgrades. The commission and staff are committed to eliminating backlogs and resolving new complaints more quickly.

“Evelyn will provide the unifying and decisive leadership needed to keep the positive momentum going and carry out the commission’s mission of providing timely and meaningful public access to accurate information about campaign finances, lobbying expenditures, and the personal financial affairs of government officials as well as ensuring compliance with and equitable enforcement of Washington’s disclosure and campaign finance laws.”

The Public Disclosure Commission was created and empowered by voter-approved Initiative 276 to provide timely and meaningful public access to accurate information about the financing of political campaigns, lobbyist expenditures, and the financial affairs of public officials and candidates; and to ensure compliance with and equitable enforcement of Washington’s disclosure and campaign finance laws.

Atkinson elected president of NW Tribal Court Judges’ Association

Lisa L. Atkinson, Northern Cherokee/Osage, is the new president of the Northwest Tribal Court Judges Association. She was the association’s treasurer for 11 years.

Among the association’s accomplishments: it wrote the Tribal Court Bench Book for Domestic Violence Cases, under a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.

Atkinson owns a law office in the Seattle suburb of Edmonds, and specializes in business law, estate planning, Indian law, probate law, and real estate law.

She is a state Supreme Court-appointee to the Washington State Access to Justice Board, which works to achieve equal access to the civil justice system for those facing economic and other significant barriers. She also serves as treasurer of the Northwest Indian Bar Association.

She studied at the Universite de Poitiers, France, 1993-94; received undergraduate degrees in political science and international studies at Oregon State University in 1996; and received a juris doctor degree in Indian Law/Environmental Law from University of Washington School of Law in 1999.

She served as chief justice of the Suquamish Court of Appeals in 2014; prosecutor, Northwest Intertribal Court System, 2002-03; and as a contract consultant from 2000-01, drafting ordinances and regulations and analyzing economic development proposals for Native Nations.

She worked for the office of general counsel, National Indian Gaming Commission, 1999-2000; and assisted low-income Native clients with housing and child-custody matters for the Northwest Justice Project from 1998- 99.

She served as a law clerk for the Native American Rights Fund in summer 1998.

“My goal as an attorney has always been to act with the highest ethical standards and provide the best service possible,” Atkinson said in an online bio. “I truly care about my clients and will be a strong advocate for their legal needs.”

She added, “As a Tribal Court judge, my practice is to make rulings that are firmly based in existing law while understanding that parties before me deserve compassion, fairness, consistency, and clarity of opinion.”

Lisa Dickinson, a lawyer and pro tem judge, said Atkinson “excels in the areas of Indian Law, code and policy writing, and court evaluations/administration advice. She has served on appellate judicial panels with me, always having good input on the law as well as tribal customs and practices. She is ethical in her treatment of clients and other attorneys.”

McCoy chairs national energy committee, Morris leads state technology committee

Sen. John McCoy, Tulalip, a Democrat from Tulalip/Marysville, is chairing the Energy, Natural Resources and Transportation Committee of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. Committee members discuss public policy and issues related to renewable and nuclear energy, water and climate change, and transportation.

McCoy, a legislator since 2003, is also the ranking minority member of the state Senate’s Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, the Government Operations and Security Committee, and the Trade & Economic Development Committee.

McCoy was selected in October for the 2015 Distinguished Community Service award by the University of Washington Alumni Association and the Multicultural Alumni Partnership. McCoy was selected for his contributions to diversity, equal opportunity and social justice. Among the bills he wrote: a law making it mandatory for public schools to include local Native American history, culture and sovereignty in their curriculum.

McCoy served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years and is former general manager of the Tulalip Tribes village of Quil Ceda.

Rep. Jeff Morris, Tsimshian, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, is chairman of the state House Technology & Economic Development, and a member of the General Government & Information Technology Committee, and the Transportation Committee.

Morris, a legislator since 1997, is former speaker pro tem of the House. He serves on the executive committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures. He co-founded a firm that assists new energy technology companies, co-chairs a national energy task force, and is an adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Rep. Jay Rodne, Chippewa, a Republican from Snoqualmie, is ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee. A legislator since 2004, he is also a member of the Health Care & Wellness Committee and the Transportation Committee. He is a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve officer, a lawyer, and general counsel for a public hospital district.

McCoy, Morris and Rodne are the only three Native Americans in the 147-member Washington State Legislature.

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