April 20, 2024 1:03 pm

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Lynnwood Times 2023 Person of the Year: Dr. Steve Woodard, Councilman, volunteer, devoted community servant

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE—It is with absolute pleasure that we at the Lynnwood Times present our 2023 Person of the Year Award to Dr. Steve Woodard, Mountlake Terrace City Councilman and Vice President of Community Engagement at Volunteers of America.

After careful consideration the Times has selected Woodard for this recognition based on his work in local politics, his work at VOA—a non-profit organization that offers hundreds of human service programs from housing and healthcare to rehabilitation and assisting the elderly, veterans, and people with disabilities—as well as his tireless pursuit of volunteerism and community service.

steve woodard
Dr. Steve Woodard, Mountlake Terrace City Councilman and President of Community Engagement at Volunteers of America, was awarded the Stems Award at the Red and White Banquet on April 29, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.
Dave Somers
Dave Somers

“Steve Woodard is extraordinarily deserving of this award,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers told the Lynnwood Times. “His decades of service to the public and volunteer work for many causes have made Snohomish County a better place to live. At a time of polarization and anger, Steve remains upbeat and positive, making a real difference in people’s lives. He is the essence of a good man, and I couldn’t be more proud to call him a friend.”

With a lot on his plate, balancing his family life, city council, and both professional and independent volunteerism, Dr. Woodard can best describe the work that he does as being divided into “lanes,” although he joked it’s more like being a “helicopter” because he seldom stays in a single lane.

In his professional lane, since joining Volunteers of America two years ago one of Dr. Woodard’s main focuses has been making progress towards opening VOA’s upcoming Lynnwood Neighborhood Center—a 40,000 square-foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified facility where multiple nonprofits can work together to engage the community and support low-income families through the complex struggles they may experience.

Second to that Dr. Woodard has been busy stewarding the humbling legacy of the South Snohomish County Emergency Cold Weather Shelter operating out of Maple Park Church in Lynnwood.

Brian Smith
Brian Smith

“There is no one more qualified to receive this honor. Dr. Woodard is a natural leader with a heart for service. We are blessed to have him here at Volunteers of America Western Washington and I am proud to call him my friend,” Volunteers of America CEO Brian Smith told the Lynnwood Times.

In his personal lane, Dr. Woodard helped establish the Association for Collective Community Engagement on Safety and Security (ACCESS) this year along with some colleagues of his.

The ACCESS Project focus is to prevent and interdict the most significant root causes, and break the cycle of, gun violence, felony crimes, and hate crimes committed by teens, youths, and young adults. The project’s primary function is a “Referral hub” of mental health professional providers and community service organizations for youths and/or parents and guardians to access community resources with specific areas of expertise to treat the acute and chronic underlying mental health conditions youths are experiencing in real time.

Dr. Woodard was awarded the Stems Award by the Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee at its Red and White Banquet on April 29, 2023,for his dedication to community.

And finally, in Dr. Woodard’s political lane, while there were a number of achievements, he believed the City of Mountlake Terrace succeeded in last year, he is most proud of residents voting in favor of annexing into a South County Fire district, which Woodard believes will be paramount to providing top notch first response services to residents in the coming years for an overall “healthier community.”

“It’s very humbling [to be named Lynnwood Times Person of the Year] especially if it’s surrounding the concept of civic engagement and volunteerism, so that I could have the opportunity to represent that” Dr. Steve Woodard told the Lynnwood Times. “I do it because I love it and I look for connections wherever I go. I’m very honored to be recognized for something that I would just be doing naturally, and that I hope that I’m doing effectively.”

Separate to all these lanes, Dr. Woodard also serves as Trustee at the Foundation for Edmonds School District where he is proud to have played a role in placing two propositions on an upcoming special election, February 13, to consider replacing and/or enhancing aging and out-of-date facilities in several Edmonds School District schools.

Proposition one will be a School Construction Bond and includes completing Oak Heights Elementary, replacing the 2021 Capital Levy, replace College Place Middle and College Place Elementary, construct a fifth middle school at the Former Alderwood Middle location, and replacing Westgate Elementary, as well as several other upgrade projects. The estimated total cost for these bond projects is $594 million.

Proposition two would be a Capital Levy focused on enhancing student technology, investments in professional learning, and improvements in infrastructure. The estimated total cost for these projects is $120 million stretching over four years.

steve woodard
Dr. Steve Woodard, Vice President of Community Engagement for VOAWW speaking at the celebratory event on February 13, 2023. SOURCE: Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

As a father and husband, Dr. Woodard attempts to balance all these responsibilities while trying to engage his family as much as possible, he shared, so it’s not just a “this is what dad does,” or “this is what hubby does,” but “this is what the family does.”

Dr. Woodard gave a recent example of when his daughter flew home for the holidays from Japan, he took her to volunteer at the VOA Toy & Joy Drive the day after landing. Dr. Woodard continued that events like these are so ingrained in his family that his daughter didn’t even question it—she just showed up, despite the jet lag.

Dr. Woodard shared with the Lynnwood Times that he lives by two things above all else: Ensuring whatever he does is meaningful and ensuring he’s being a decent human being. He recommends everyone get involved in their community, which he admits is probably the hardest thing to do but has the biggest pay off. The second thing he recommends is to challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone.

“I’m not just looking for another byline on my LinkedIn profile, whatever I do I want to be engaged,” said Dr. Woodard. “I encourage people to get involved in ways that are meaningful, but also meaningful in the long run. Your time is very precious as both a gift and a resource. Use it effectively, try to find a rhythm, and go from there.”

Speaking of LinkedIn, the only thing Dr. Steve Woodard’s biography on LinkedIn says is “service is my calling,” a mantra that resonates through every facet of his life.

If Dr. Woodard had to be put in a box, it would be, first and foremost, an “educator,” serving in the profession for over 30 years at the University of Washington as vice president within the Minority Affairs and Diversity Office and most recently as dean of Edmonds College.

While Dr. Woodard noted that education has been a “humbling experience,” his scope for how he wished to serve his community ultimately led him to volunteerism through Volunteers of America, where he believes the reach of services far exceeds the limitations of education.

He met the Volunteers of America the way he hopes most people get to know them – through volunteering. Through his volunteer work, he was invited to join the board and was eventually appointed to his vice president position.

What attracted Dr. Woodard most to Volunteers of America is their ability to assist in any component of life, and where they can’t assist, they find a partner who can.

steve woodard
Dr. Steve Woodard. SOURCE: Dr. Steve Woodard.

As far as his role serving on the Mountlake Terrace City Council, Dr. Woodard got involved with politics as a resident, father of Edmonds School District students, husband to a high school educator, and someone with social justice on the top of his mind. To him, it was a way of “getting involved in any way” he could.

Mountlake Terrace, being only four-square miles, was very easy to get into volunteer work, Dr. Woodard told the Lynnwood Times.

Dr. Woodard has sat on several boards including Equity of Opportunity at Edmonds College, Sno-Isle Library System, Commissioner at RPAC, Teachers of Color Foundation, LEVL, Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust.

He has spread his skill sets through other countries, including Spain, working with students but mostly on the West Coast, where he has called home most of his life. Through his work in Snohomish County, he has honed in to residents who have felt “disenfranchised.”

Dr. Steve Woodard holds a doctorate in multicultural education and feminist theory. He has used his degrees to focus on “voices that had been erased or minimized” historically, which is the lens he looks through in his work, always looking for who is being served but also who is not being served and what the implications are.

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