Simreet Dhaliwal is an Emerging Leader finalist. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Simreet Dhaliwal is an Emerging Leader finalist. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Simreet Dhaliwal: A deep-seated commitment to justice

The Snohomish County tourism and economic specialist is determined to steer change and make a meaningful impact.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2024. The winner will be named at an event on April 17.

Simreet Dhaliwal, 26

Economic Development and Tourism Specialist, Snohomish County

Project Manager, Sustainable Aviation Fuel Research and Development Center at Paine Field

The 2016 presidential election changed the trajectory of Simreet Dhaliwal’s life.

Dhaliwal feared that Americans who looked like her family — her father wears an orange turban — “would not be welcome by those who held the country’s highest office,” she said. “It was scary, to be honest, to realize that the country I loved and pledged allegiance to did not want me.”

In the days that followed, Dhaliwal changed her major from bioengineering to medical anthropology and signed up for classes in law and justice.

“I wanted to be involved in politics and government because they dictate the most basic of rights,” Dhaliwal said. “I did not want any other young brown women to feel the same as I had.”

Today, Dhaliwal is project manager for the new Sustainable Aviation Fuel Research and Development Center at Paine Field in Everett, one of the biggest projects in the county. A joint venture between Snohomish County and Washington State University, the center is scheduled to open this year in a temporary location at the county-owned airport. A permanent site at Paine Field is expected to open in 2027.

“It’s a lot of responsibility being handed a capital project of that size,” said Dhaliwal who graduated from the University of Washington in 2019.

The center, which received $6.5 million in startup funds from the state Department of Transportation, will collect sustainable aviation fuel samples from around the world and test them for safety, performance and chemical similarity to conventional jet fuel.

“Simreet takes a lead whenever given the opportunity, is humble and driven to make a difference where she shows up!” a nominator wrote.

Dhaliwal participated in the Young Professionals Program at Leadership Snohomish County. The nonprofit offers education and mentorship.

She is a member of Lynnwood’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission.

“Being a woman of color, I try to push diversity, equity, inclusion in every aspect of my life,” Dhaliwal said.

Snohomish County is like no other, she said: “There’s a sense of community here that I have not encountered.”

Dhaliwal pointed to Joel Bervell, a medical student who offers medical information related to racial disparities on TikTok. Bervell from Mukilteo won the 2022 Emerging Leaders Award.

“That is so cool! That is what this area is about,” she said. “There are so many gems that you just wouldn’t know about, if we didn’t bring forward our young diverse leaders.”

Dhaliwal encourages people to volunteer, join an advisory board or commission. In the future, she hopes to run for elected office.

“My family, community and a deep-seated commitment to justice fuel my action,” she said. “Every morning, I rise with a sense of purpose, eager to contribute to the betterment of society. I am determined to play a role in steering change within local government, utilizing every opportunity to make a meaningful impact.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097;; Twitter: @JanicePods.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.