Dustin DeKoekkoek, 37
Civil engineer, Perteet Inc., Everett
Dustin DeKoekkoek had trouble putting himself in someone else’s shoes.
The benefits of a loving family and the value they attached to community service gave him a deep sense of purpose, but empathy was sometimes wanting.
That changed when his second daughter, Arden, entered his life.
She was born with Down Syndrome.
“It was a great and terrible thing all at once,” DeKoekkoek said. “Up until then, I was a middle-class white man as privileged as anyone. I’ve had limited opportunities to understand what this world is like for people and groups not in the majority.
“Having a daughter with a disability opened my eyes to a whole new world and forever shaped who I am,” he said. “Arden changed all of that.”
“Seeing her struggle, seeing how hard it is for her just to be valued and accepted in our society, is heartbreaking. I now recognize I don’t have the same experience as other people — the 70% of the world that is not white men.”
DeKoekkoek is an engineer at Perteet Inc., a civil engineering firm in downtown Everett.
When he and his wife moved to Mountlake Terrace more than a decade ago, he went to work.
In 2009, he started a local news website called MLTnews.com and later handed it over to the My Neighborhood News Network.
When he missed writing and reporting about the community, he launched nextMLT.com in 2013 to cover the changes that were taking place in the city.
In 2016, DeKoekkoek co-founded the Mountlake Terrace Community Foundation. Today he serves on the city’s Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission, City Hall Advisory Committee, MLT Station and the Neighborhood Parks Improvements subcommittee.
Over the past decade, DeKoekkoek has collaborated on a “ton of projects for the greater good — the food bank, senior center, schools, parks, helping the homeless,” a nominator wrote.
The list also includes obtaining a grant to digitize historical photos of the area, founding the Mountlake Terrace History Facebook page and helping establish summer concerts in the parks.
“Dustin is a tireless leader in his efforts to spearhead grants for Little Food Pantry, Little Free Libraries, tables for the food bank, a bench at the dog park, improvements at Bicentennial Park, bike racks in Town Center … and new deck at the senior center,” the nominator wrote.
Mountlake Terrace has a small-town feel, but with light rail coming there’s concern that could be lost, he said.
He hopes to help preserve the city’s neighborly character.
“If people ask me what my hobbies are, the answer is quite simple — Mountlake Terrace,” he said.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods