Olympia city council appoints 11 to new Social Justice and Equity Commission


The Olympia City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the appointments of 11 inaugural members to Social Justice and Equity Commission Tuesday.

During a presentation at the April 19 city council meeting, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion manager Tobi Hill-Meyer said there were 40 applicants for 11 commissioner seatswitha planning workgroup, which pushed for creating the social justice equity commission, screening and whittling the list to 21.

The Community Livability and Public Safety Committee conducted interviews with the remaining applicants on April 6 and 7. They then recommended 11 people to be members of the commission. These are:

  • Eyota Wak’ishwit is a transwoman of mixed race (white and Yakima). She has worked for Heartspark Press and Pizza Klatch and is an experienced facilitator.
  • Fauziya Mohamedali is multilingual native of Kenya. She has lived and traveled several countries on four continents. She lives with her husband, has three daughters and four grandchildren. She is a retired graphic designer and a licensed personal chef providing meals to the community and those in need.
  • Genevieve Chan is a first-generation Filipino-American who has lived in Olympia for over 10 years. A parent of two,. she is an advocate of several early education initiatives and is vice president of marketing and communications at Saint Martin’s University.
  • Jessicarae Nunez works for the State of Washington as a Native American Tribal liaison.
  • Marianne Ozmun-Wells is an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion manager for the Department Social and Health Services; engaged in social justice work for over 30 years.
  • Omar Santana-Gomez is a queer first-generation Mexican-American raised in rural Lewis County. He has experience working with survivors of domestic violence and helped start up the newly created Washington State LGBTQ Commission. He works for the Department of Health as an equity and social justice manager.
  • Parfait Bassale is an executive diversity officer at South Puget Sound Community College. He is an equity strategist who has supported numerous state agencies, non-profit organizations with their diversity and equity initiativesand holds a masters degree in Conflict Resolution from Portland State University.
  • Rachelle Martin is a management analyst for the Center of Health Statistics at the Department of Health. She is a certified mediator and a board member of the Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council and CascadiaNow. She served as the legislature coordinator for the Washington chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign.
  • Sarah Lloyd is a Ph.D. candidate at Saint Martin’s University, studying social justice leadership. She is a board member at Career Path Services and the South Sound YMCA.
  • Wesley Nguyen works for City of Lacey City and has called Olympia home for the last five years. He describes himself as “not a DEI expert, just someone who has lived experience”. He came to the US as a Vietnam War child refugee, and had been on the government’s child welfare benefits.
  • Larry Watkinson is a deputy director for the Office of Equal Opportunity within the Department of Transportation. He has a Master’s degree in Public Administration. A a former board member of Intercity Transit Authority and Washington State School for the Blind. He participated in the efforts to adopt the Americans with Disabilities and has been engaged throughout its implementation.

According to Hill-Meyer, the purpose of the Social Justice and Equity Commission is to “eliminate racism and fulfill human rights for a just and equitable Olympia for all people.”

The commission will mediate, conciliate and investigate complaints of unlawful discrimination and issues related to racial, social justice, human rights or other forms of discrimination within the municipal boundary of Olympia city, Hill-Meyer added. 

In addition, the commission will take advisory role on regular advice and counsel, and on specific projects, events, policies and procedures. 

The commissioners’ other work scope includes engaging with community members who have been historically marginalized and receiving input from community members focusing on the highest priority and most impactful issues. 

According to Hill-Meyer, the creation of the Social Justice and Equity Commission was rooted in the summer of 2020, when there were massive demonstrations around the world after the murder of George Floyd. 

“Olympia participated in those demonstrations, which was a big part of what pushed forward [creation of the commission] and other work in the city. Around that time, we had created the first diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator,” Hill-Meyer said. 

In 2021, they established the founding workgroup, which did research to identify the most effective way to have a social justice and equity commission. 

“There were community listening sessions, focusing around people of color, LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, people with disabilities, and the general community to hear about the needs and priority concerns from the community,” Hill-Meyer said. 

Following this work, the city council approved the creation of the commission. 

In 2022, the workgroup began recruiting for commissioners and worked with the Community Livability and Public Safety Committee for recommendations and the eventual appointments of the inaugural members for the commission. 


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