EJC Members

Click "more" to learn more about the EJC members. 

Nancy Huizar - Co-Chair

Got Green

More + -

Nancy Huizar was born and raised in Beacon Hill. In 2015, she graduated from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. As a young professional, Nancy interned and worked for many environmental organizations. Most of the organizations she worked for looked at environmental issues in one dimension: how humans affect the environment. By serving on the Environmental Justice Committee, Nancy looks forward to working within different dimensions and intersections of the environmental issues we face and supporting communities that are disproportionately affected by them.

Melissa Watkinson - Co-Chair

Community Liaison

More + -

Melissa Watkinson is a Citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. She has lived most of her life in Washington State, and has been a resident of Seattle for the past ten years. She earned a master's degree in Policy Studies at the University of Washington Bothell in 2015. As a graduate student, Melissa worked as a research assistant at UW with the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute to conduct community-based research with tribal colleges and with Washington Sea Grant on social indicator research for WA's Marine Spatial Plan. Her capstone research employed cross-disciplinary research methods to better understand the impacts of historic and federal land policies and programs on climate change adaptation for tribal communities who are experiencing a loss of coastal land. She recently completed a Marine Policy Fellowship at The Nature Conservancy.

Currently, Melissa is working at the University of Washington on a community-based Tribal Climate Science and Health project. Melissa also brings experience from volunteering and collaborating with organizations that work to address the needs of communities who face multiple climate impacts.

Debolina Banerjee

Puget Sound Sage

More + -

Debolina comes to the EJ Steering Committee with a deep commitment towards socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and just development for communities whose voices are not heard in the mainstream. Her experience ranges from research on the environmental impacts of unorganized industries, transit‐oriented development, anti‐displacement, affordable housing, and project management for real estate development to extensive community based work with grassroots activists and marginalized communities in India organizing for social justice and human rights around food, sustainable agriculture, clean environment, community development and women's empowerment. She holds Master's degrees in City Planning as well as Applied Environmental Studies in Planning, and has a Bachelor's degree in Architecture. Grounded in Puget Sound Sage's mission to advance racial equity, strong democracy, good jobs, clean environment and thriving communities, she works as Climate Justice Policy Analyst, performing research‐based analysis of climate policies and providing support to climate justice campaigns and coalitions.

Dennis Comer

Community Liaison

More + -

Dennis Comer is a retired military officer and co-owner of Brown Sugar Baking in the Central Area of Seattle. He is a member of both the Central Area Land Use Review Committee and the Central Area Collaborative, two community groups comprised of residents and business community stakeholders who work to ensure commercial vitality and a collaborative approach to development in the Central Area.

César García-García

Community Liaison

More + -

Born and raised in Mexico, César García-García lived in different environments before moving to beautiful Seattle in 2003. He went from Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, to the tropical Caribbean in the Yucatan Peninsula, then to the arid region of Baja California. It is here in the unique Pacific NW where he has found his call of helping his community. 

César works as an interpreter, an activity he considers very rewarding because of the impact created when two people understand each other. He also likes to read about the history and current affairs of this region and is always eager to contribute to his community and this city he now calls home.

Dimitri Groce

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

More + -

Dimitri finds pride in knowing every nook and corner in Seattle. Raised by a single-parent, he has committed himself to being part of the movement to advance opportunities for low-income people and communities of color to successfully assert their place in the fabric of the city. Dimitri credits local community-based organizations like Puget Sound Sage and Got Green in helping him develop an analysis of Environmental Justice as a vehicle to create inclusive, equitable policy spaces to build strong communities. He currently works as an organizer for the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, and spends a lot of his free-time wearing earbuds, running shoes, and/or aprons.

Abdullahi Jama

Community Liaison

More + -

Abdullahi is currently an independent consultant on East African community issues focusing on research, at-risk youth, economic disparity, strategic planning, and leadership training. He has a long history of organizing and community building in the East African community.

Abdullahi worked with the City of Seattle's Office of Immigrants and Refugee Affairs in 2012-2013 to lead the Save Community Conversation between the SPD and African immigrant populations in Seattle. In his home country of Somalia, Abdullahi taught human rights law at the Somali National University and worked with the Government of Somalia negotiating peace treaties. Abdullahi served on the Community Partner Steering Committee that led to the creation of the Equity & Environment Agenda. 

Kaiwen Lee

Community Liaison

More + -

Kaiwen Lee is an environmental educator and facilitator. They hold a B.A. in Global Environmental Studies and M.A.Ed. in Urban Environmental Education. For the past ten years, they have worked nearly all facets of the field from venturing in forests as a research assistant to doing habitat restoration and leading backcountry trips. Kaiwen also serves as a consultant and facilitator of social justice and equity workshops, particularly for environmental organizations. They are committed to creating career pathways in the environmental field for youth of color, as well as queer and trans* youth, and shifting the culture of the environmental movement.

Paulina López

Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/TAG

More + -

Paulina López is a full-time volunteer, organizer, advocate, and the mother of three boys under the age of ten. She is originally from Ecuador, but has made Seattle her home over the past 13 years. Paulina demonstrates engagement in this community with advocacy for multiple important civic policies, including access to a safe, clean environment for our families. Currently, she works for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/TAG as a Community Engagement Manager where she oversees the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps Program.

For the last 10 years, Paulina has served as a volunteer President of the South Park Information and Resource Center, a grassroots community organization which endeavors to foster civic engagement in recent immigrants, with a special focus on women. Paulina has labored extensively to promote local social and environmental justice issues uniquely affecting our recent immigrant communities, such as the cleanup of the Duwamish River and health impact assessments. Paulina has a passion for outreach and community involvement for underrepresented communities on issues that affect them, as well as advocacy for human rights issues. She served on the Community Partner Steering Committee that led to the creation of the Equity & Environment Agenda.  

Jose Manuel Vasquez

Latino Community Fund

More + -

Jose Manuel Vasquez is the Director of Programs and Leadership Development for the Latino Community Fund of Washington. He is passionate about helping identify community needs and connecting our community to resources. He has spent many years helping build the capacity and leadership of future leaders through the Latino Community Fund, where he himself once started out as a student volunteer. An immigrant who grew up in South Seattle, Jose has many personal experiences of the needs of our local community. Jose served on the Community Partner Steering Committee that led to the creation of the Equity & Environment Agenda.

Kimela Vigil, MSW, LICSW

SEIU 1199NW

More + -

Currently Kimela is a Social Worker/Mental Health Therapist at Harborview Medical Center Women's Clinic. Kimela has been a Social Worker for 18 years and has always worked in social services. Kimela's first job in college was working at the campus' recycling program in Bellingham, WA where her passion for environmental work began to bloom.  To this day, Kimela is a hardcore recycler!  She always appreciated her upbringing in New Mexico where her Latino family taught her to live off the land and connect with nature. Kimela learned gardening and raising animals and had an opportunity to visit National Parks because her grandfather worked for the National Park Service. In 2011, Kimela ran the lunch-time composting program at her son's elementary school.  She hates to see food go to waste, as her sons know well. For many years, Kimela has been an active member of her union SEIU 1199NW. Over the last two years since joining the Union's Executive Board, Kimela been a representative of SEIU 1199NW on the Environmental Justice Committee, bringing together two of her life passions.

Karia Wong

Chinese Information & Service Center

More + -

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Karia completed her high school and college education in Toronto, Canada. From a young age, she witnessed and experienced environmental injustice and was conditioned to believe that only real estate developers and high government officials have the power to make decisions related to the environment.

Karia has found her involvement in the EJC a very inspiring and self-awakening experience- she worked in collaboration with the other members in the development of the framework for the Environment & Equity Initiative. She is currently a Family Center Coordinator at Chinese Information & Service Center (CISC), a community-based nonprofit organization located in the International District/Chinatown, which specializes in supporting immigrants to settle and thrive. She is a committed advocate of environmental justice for underprivileged immigrant communities.  "Local issues, local voices, local leaders and local solutions." Karia served on the Community Partner Steering Committee that led to the creation of the Equity & Environment Agenda.