Lynn Allen Award Honorees

Lynn Allen
Founding NPI board member Lynn Allen (Photo: Lincoln Potter for NPI)

The Lynn Allen Awards are named for founding NPI boardmember and netroots pioneer Lynn Allen.

We lost Lynn to ovarian cancer in 2011, but her spirit has remained with us. (And so have her published works, which are preserved by NPI at Rebuilding Democracy.)

Lynn believed in the important work of organizing rural communities and acting on issues of concern to people living far away from our big cities and urban areas. She believed in the politics of inclusion. As communications director of the Institute for Washington’s Future, she traveled regularly to Washington’s rural counties and small towns, championing sustainable business and agricultural practices.

A skilled facilitator and gifted listener, Lynn understood the importance of and need for effective activism. Not a day goes by when we don’t miss her.

By establishing the Lynn Allen Awards, we’ve taken another step to ensure that Lynn’s good works will be remembered and her legacy appreciated.

Joni Earl (2017)

Joni Earl speaking
Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl speaks at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala. (Photo: Lincoln Potter for NPI)

Tapped in 2001 to take the helm of a public agency in crisis, Joni Earl turned Sound Transit around, instilling a culture of excellence. Joni deftly navigated around treacherous legal and political obstacles to restart planning of the high capacity rail spine voters approved in 1996 to connect cities in Washington’s urban core. Under her leadership, Sound Transit secured the federal funds needed to begin building Link light rail and won voter approval for a crucial second phase of expansion. Construction of the system began in the autumn of 2003 and has been underway ever since. Sixteen stations are now open and dozens more are on the way.

Paul Lawrence (2017)

Paul Lawrence arguing Lee v. State
Paul Lawrence presents oral arguments in Lee v. State in March of 2016 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

A formidable attorney specializing in complex appellate and civil litigation, Paul Lawrence has ably represented public servants and working families in our courts for more than thirty years. During a five year stretch ranging from 2011 to 2016, Paul skillfully secured a series of landmark verdicts against a crop of right wing initiatives that gravely threatened Washington’s future. Prior to those cases, Paul defended Sound Transit against multiple lawsuits intended to weaken or destroy it. His mastery of constitutional law and sound trial strategy have repeatedly led to crucial victories for progressive causes.

Paul Eaton (2018)

Paul Eaton accepts his Lynn Allen Award
Major General Paul Eaton (Retired) delivers remarks after accepting his Lynn Allen Award (Photo: Theresa Curry Almuti/NPI)

A widely respected voice for America’s veterans, Paul Eaton rose to the rank of Major General in the United States Army before retiring in 2006 after more than three decades of exemplary service to our country. Since retiring, Paul has continued to serve the American people through his work with and the VetVoice Foundation. In 2007, Paul worked with Darcy Burner to put together A Responsible Plan To End the War in Iraq. The following year, he was instrumental in helping establish NPI’s Spring Fundraising Gala as a successful event, allowing NPI to significantly expand its research and advocacy. Paul’s work on nuclear nonproliferation, including his thoughtful advocacy in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, has made our world community safer and stronger.

Heather Lynn (Alex) Hendrickson (2018)

A veteran of many campaigns — from Initiative 502 to Karen Fraser’s bid for Lieutenant Governor to Shari Song’s 2014 run for Washington State Senate — Alex Hendrickson ( – 2018) was widely respected for her talents and dedication to progressive causes.

Estela Ortega (2019)

Estela Ortega
Estela Ortega with her Lynn Allen Award (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Building community has been the cause of Estela Ortega’s life. In her early twenties, she made a conscious decision to become an organizer for social justice with her husband and legendary advocate Roberto Maestas. For over four decades, she has worked to take care of the beloved community through El Centro de la Raza (The Center For People Of All Races), a community action agency based in Beacon Hill. Under Estela’s leadership, El Centro has championed transit oriented development, building over one hundred homes for people with limited means next to its historic building on Sixteenth Avenue South in Seattle. Estela’s contributions to causes like education, affordable housing, youth engagement, and public health have enriched our region and shown what can be accomplished with visionary leadership and perseverance.

Al Garman (2019)

Al Garman in action at the Ballard Locks (Photo: Tran Imaging)

A talented craftsman and gifted photographer, Al Garman (1957-2018) was a stalwart supporter of the Northwest Progressive Institute who gave generously to progressive causes, both in talent as well as treasure. Al’s outstanding photography helped NPI and other progressive organizations capture memorable moments for more than a decade, including the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which he attended as a delegate. “I am a progressive/liberal Democrat of Iranian descent, making cabinet and furniture for living and passionate about politics and of course photography,” he wrote of himself in his Flickr Pro profile. On Flickr alone, his high quality photographs have accumulated over 1.5 million views. Al exemplified many of the best and most important virtues that humanity should aspire to, notably calmness and kindness. He led by example. By practicing what he preached, he inspired other people to be kinder and calmer.

Mary Fairhurst (2020)

Retired Justice Mary Fairhurst
Retired Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst listens to oral argument in the McCleary case (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

An exceptional and widely respected jurist, Mary Fairhurst served the people as an Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court for seventeen years after working in the Attorney General’s office in many roles, including as division chief. While on the Court, she authored the majority opinion in Gregory that struck down the death penalty in Washington State, as well as the leading dissent in the Anderson case, which sought an affirmation that laws against marriage equality were incompatible with the Constitution. In another notable case, League of Education Voters, she helped protect Washington’s cherished tradition of majority rule in the Legislature. Her work ethic and stamina in the face of repeated cancer diagnoses demonstrate her professionalism and passion for justice.

Tony Lee (2020)

Known affectionately as the “conscience of the Legislature,” Tony Lee (1948-2020) was a kindhearted, legendary champion for racial equality and ending poverty with an instantly recognizable booming laugh. As the Advocacy Director of Solid Ground, he lobbied patiently and effectively for Washington State’s essential public services, securing funding for priorities like housing and nutrition assistance initiatives. Thanks to his efforts, nutrition assistance was extended to tens of thousands of Washingtonians who’d previously been excluded from food stamp eligibility. Even after stepping back in 2014, Lee continued to be active in efforts to defend Washington’s future; he was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that successfully overturned Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking Initiative 1366. Tony proved through his exemplary work that politics and public policymaking can be about improving people’s lives. His formidable contributions will continue to benefit our communities.