Dustin DeKoekkoek

Dustin DeKoekkoek

His hobby is making Mountlake Terrace a better place

When Dustin DeKoekkoek’s second daughter was born with Down Syndrome, it opened his eyes to empathy.

This is one of the top four of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders award, which highlights and celebrates people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner is to be announced during an online event on Thursday. Meet the other finalists.

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; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Relieve the pandemic coin shortage: Bust open the piggy bank

The coronavirus lockdown means less metal is in circulation. Banks and merchants are desperate for change.

Rep. Larsen tours small businesses given federal PPP loans

The congressman said leaders in Washington D.C. continue to negotiate for further COVID-19 relief.

Boeing: No orders, more cancellations for grounded 737 Max

The company has lost more than 800 net orders so far this year.

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

Snohomish County PUD embraces ‘smart’ meters despite concerns

A handful of customers said they were worried about privacy, peak-hour rate increases and safety.

Marysville sues Arlington over plan for 500 apartments

Marysville worries the major project on 51st Avenue NE will gum up traffic at a nearby intersection.

Big new apartment complex anchors Broadway’s transformation

The seven-story, 140-unit Kinect @ Broadway is one of several facelifting projects in Everett’s core.

Pop into this Everett pop-up store for new vinyl records

Upper Left Records will offer albums from local bands and new pressings of classic recordings.

Everett’s new equity manager is ready to roll up her sleeves

In her new job, Kay Barnes will work to ensure that the city’s staff reflects Everett’s diversity.

Everett startup makes a swift pivot from in-person to online

Abacus links hobbyists, crafters and artists with people who want to learn new skills — virtually.

Dining in the street is now an official thing in Everett

With a free permit, businesses can expand outdoor seating to street parking areas — and fencing is provided.

FAA: Boeing pressured safety workers at S.C. aircraft plant

Federal officials are seeking to fine Boeing $1.25 million for practices related to 787 inspection oversight.