Puget Sound Sage is thrilled to announce our new Executive Director, Nicole Vallestero Keenan! A former Sage staff member, Nicole is a champion of racially just and community-centered policy.
Vallestero Keenan has more than a decade of experience in research, advocacy, civic engagement, racial justice organizing, social services, and community and business outreach. Vallestero Keenan was the executive director of the Fair Work Center, a hub for workers to better understand and exercise their legal rights, improve their working conditions and connect with community resources. At the Fair Work Center, she led a staff of seven who trained workers about their rights on the job and offered support when those rights were violated.
Before launching the Fair Work Center, Vallestero Keenan was policy director of Puget Sound Sage, providing research and advocacy in the labor and environmental arenas. One of the community-based research projects she led at Sage focused on understanding how communities of color and low-income residents identify the impacts of climate change.
Earlier, as an organizer with Washington Environmental Council, she played a key role in preventing a coal export facility in Grays Harbor County. The facility, if built, would have contaminated the air and water near several oyster farms and residential neighborhoods.
In 2014, at the age of 29, Vallestero Keenan served on Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee—the youngest person on the committee—where she was a voice for racial equity and workers’ rights.
Her work had an influential impact on the passage of the historic $15/hour minimum wage in Seattle. In 2014, she received a 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Leadership Award from the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and Seattle Women’s Commission, and the following year, she was named one of the “15 people who should really run Seattle” by Seattle Met magazine. This past year, she received the UW School of Social Work’s Early Career Achievement Award.
In addition to the leadership and dedication she brings to her work, Vallestero Keenan is a UW School of Social Work field education instructor who is known for her mentorship of students and other young professionals.