Zsofia Pasztor: Our leaders can reflect community’s diversity

We have a county of increasing cultural diversity. Slowly our leadership is reflecting that.

Zsofia Pasztor

Zsofia Pasztor

By Zsofia Pasztor / Herald Forum

I was completely turned around. The address seemed close to where I was. But, in the days before GoogleMaps, I did not have the latest version of the Thomas Guide, so I had to sort of work with the puzzle of brand-new roads. It was my first time in this part of Puget Sound. Everything was new; Mukilteo was booming.

I pulled over and stared at the map again. A pacifier just flew on the open book and my arm was kicked. I saw the sandals of my five-year-old coming at me. I dodged it. A car stopped behind me and an older lady walked over to me. She probably saw the car moving like a rocking chair and heard the screaming kids. She asked if I needed help. She had a beautiful accent; she was an immigrant. I managed not to cry. I did need help! We were running late for a birthday party of a friend’s daughter! When I explained to her what address I was looking for, she quickly helped me find the right spot on the map. She laughed, yes, the area is being reworked faster than they can print the maps. I do not think I ever could thank her enough for stopping to check on me. A total stranger.

I kept thinking how much I enjoyed the area and that I should look for a place to move to be near our friends.

Our family searched for a place to live in south Snohomish County and found our street where many of our neighbors were immigrants. We felt at home. We have lived in this area for 28 years now. We know the faces, the voices and want to see our community reflected in our leadership too.

Snohomish County might seem like a less diverse county than Pierce or King counties, but we know that’s not the case. What we don’t have are many Black, Indigenous and People of Coloor and immigrant community members in leadership roles. The reasons for this are complex; we do have a multitude of obstacles and much of these are embedded into the system. One must have the connections, the right connections, the right phone numbers and names to have access to doors and boardrooms.

I am excited to see that the problems within the system are getting more notice. Leadership Snohomish County is dedicated to foster our future leaders and is helping to open doors and moving obstacles aside. It has seen it cohorts shift over the years with more and more BIPOC and immigrant participation.

We can all help speed up this process. Participation is critical. As the saying goes: If one is not at the table, one is on the menu. When we vote, when we lend our support to individuals and encourage them to step up and take on leadership roles; we can influence our very real daily experiences by choosing who we support. Systemic challenges take time to become systemic solutions and ultimately are developed into such by people. Our systems are shaped and manifested by people. We are the people. We are the ones who can and must make the changes we want to see around us.

Snohomish County is my home. I fell in love with the people when I got lost on my way to a kids’ birthday party. I fell in love because an old immigrant lady stopped to help me. I fell in love because I knew that the community was just like me and would help me when I needed help.

I am excited to see the faces and hear the voices of those who are running for office who look and sound like my neighborhood. I am excited to feel even more at home in Snohomish County!

Zsofia Pasztor and her husband emigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1989. She is the founder of Farmer Frog, a nonprofit that works to establish edible gardens at local schools.

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