Mayor names new directors at Sustainability & Environment, Department of Neighborhoods

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today named Jessica Finn Coven to serve as director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) and Kathy Nyland to serve as director of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON). Bernie Matsuno, who has served as director of DON since 2011, will be stepping down effective June 2.

Finn Coven comes to OSE after serving as Washington Director of Climate Solutions since 2011. Previously she worked at the U.S. Climate Action Network and Greenpeace. She serves on the board of directors of Washington Conservation Voters and Puget Sound Sage.

“Jessica brings deep connections to Seattle’s environmental community,” said Murray. “Her commitment to environmental justice will lend strength to Seattle’s new Equity and Environment Initiative. The benefits of progressive environmental policy must reach all our diverse communities more equitably, including low-income families, immigrants and people of color.”

“Anyone who knows Jessica appreciates her deep knowledge of environmental policy,” said Rashad Morris of the Bullitt Foundation. “Her commitment to economic and racial equity makes this an especially strong choice as Seattle works to bridge issues of sustainability and social justice.”

“Seattle has long been a proof point that we can create more broadly shared prosperity by prioritizing a clean and healthy environment,” said Finn Coven. “Mayor Murray has been a leader throughout his career on sustainable transportation solutions and equitable responses to climate change. I’m absolutely thrilled to join his team and to be part of Seattle’s next chapter in clean energy development and ensuring the health of all Seattle’s family.”

Finn Coven will be paid $132,000 and start at OSE on June 12. Finn Coven replaces Jill Simmons, who announced her decision to step down as director of OSE in April.

Nyland is currently a senior policy advisor on land use and planning in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation. She is a former chief of staff to City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. Before joining city government, she served on several community councils, founded the Georgetown Merchants’ Association and chaired Seattle’s City Neighborhood Council.

“During my first year as mayor, Kathy has become a trusted advisor,” said Murray. “Her personal history as a community advocate, her strong relationships with neighborhood leaders throughout the city, and her policy acumen make her the natural choice to step into this role. I look forward to her leadership in community conversations on private development, public investments and support for vibrant neighborhoods in our city.”

“I am honored by this opportunity to continue to serve the Mayor and the city in this new role at the Department of Neighborhoods,” says Nyland. “I’ve long believed that our communities are our strongest resources and I look forward to bringing more voices to the table. We want to support and strengthen all our neighborhoods in Seattle.”

Nyland joins DON on June 2 and will earn $136,000.

Matsuno came out of retirement to serve as director of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, intending to serve only a few months, but staying on for more than four years. She developed and expanded new community programs at DON, including the People’s Academy for Community Engagement (PACE) and the Public Outreach and Engagement Liaison (POEL) program to expand civic engagement, especially in underrepresented communities.

“Bernie has been a true champion of our neighborhoods and a helpful advisor to me on community issues and needs,” said Murray. “She has advocated effectively for the community to have a greater voice in City government and their neighborhood – an important role that the department will sustain.”

“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to serve in Mayor Murray’s administration, but I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life,” said Matsuno. “I’m excited about this transition and intend to continue my professional work for the people of Seattle, as well as volunteer in my community.”

“Bernie Matsuno was one of my first and best hires 27 years ago,” said Jim Diers, former DON director. “Bernie initiated a powerful leadership development program and innovative outreach strategy to ensure that all voices are heard. I’m excited that Bernie is passing the torch to Kathy Nyland, someone who I have long admired for her leadership of the Georgetown neighborhood. I know that she believes deeply in the department’s mission and I can’t wait to see what she does in taking it to the next level.”

Matsuno will continue to lend her expertise to future City community-engagement projects.