And then there were five!
Today, at a short, business-focused meeting, the four voting members of the 201 Washington State Redistricting Commission fulfilled their responsibility to select a fifth nonvoting member to serve as the commission’s Chair through the end of the redistricting process as the Washington State Constitution requires.
Sarah Augustine, the Executive Director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas Counties, was the Commission’s unanimous choice for the job. She will preside at future meetings of the Commission, whose four voting members are Democratic Commissioners April Sims and Brady Walkinshaw and Republican Commissioners Joe Fain and Paul Graves.
“Sarah received a BA in Sociology and Psychology and an MA in Whole Systems Design with an emphasis in group conflict transformation,” her DRC biography says. “She is the co-founder of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF), where she has advocated for vulnerable Indigenous Peoples since 2004.”
“She has represented the interests of Indigenous community partners to their own governments, the Inter-American development bank, the United Nations, the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the World Health Organization, and a host of other international actors.”
“She employs shuttle diplomacy and group decision-making strategies to de-escalate conflict and establish common ground between communities and external interests. In addition to her work with SIHF, Sarah has worked as an organizational consultant in strategic planning, facilitation, and mediation.”
“Sarah, a senior mediator, has been a mediator for fifteen years.”
The commissioners were all in agreement that Augustine’s background and experience make her an extremely suitable candidate to serve as Chair.
“This [nomination] was a suggestion from one of our Democratic colleagues… [I] had a conversation, did a little bit of research and what I found, I was extraordinarily impressed with,” said Republican Commissioner Joe Fain.
“The public has tasked us with not only drawing maps, but in creating boundaries in a fair and collaborative way that fosters trust in our government and confidence in our electoral process… I have full faith and confidence that Sarah is similarly committed to this goal,” said Democratic Commissioner April Sims.
“I had the good fortune to spend some time talking with Sarah yesterday — hopefully, soon to be Commissioner Augustine — and I was just extraordinarily impressed by the perspectives she brings to this specific role,” concurred Democratic Commissioner Brady Walkinshaw.
“I’m very excited about Sarah Augustine serving as our Chair as well,” said Republican Commissioner Paul Graves. “We’re going to end up having an organization that is a state agency and hires eight or nine people. Her work running the Dispute Resolution Center in Yakima and Kittitas Counties shows she can do that, and — I have confidence! — do it well.”
Future meetings of the Redistricting Commission will be scheduled by Augustine in consultation with the four voting members, Graves noted.
Just before adjournment, Commissioner April Sims observed that the Commission needs to move quickly on releasing a job description for the position of executive director so that it can begin seeking applicants for that role.
The Commission then concluded its January 30th meeting.