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Aken picked as Cascade’s new Advocacy Director, more staff changes coming

Jeff Aken. Image from Cascade.
Jeff Aken. Image from Cascade.

Jeff Aken has been promoted from his job as Principal Planner at Cascade Bicycle Club to fill the Advocacy Director position vacated recently by Thomas Goldstein.

Aken said his advocacy style is all about collaboration, and his goal is to focus on “all-ages and abilities bike infrastructure and increasing funding, obviously, to get those things built.”

He praised the work of Washington Bikes and hopes to work with them and area politicians to keep progress moving not just in Seattle, but all around the region.

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“Both Seattle and the region are at a tipping point with [Seattle’s] Bike Master Plan, things like the East Lake Sammamish Trail and how we are starting to string together regional trails,” he said.

But one of Aken’s first tasks will be to fill a hole left by Emily Kathrein, the club’s Field Programs Manager who announced recently that she will be leaving to work for the UW’s Commute Options Program. Among other projects, Kathrein ran the club’s innovative and effective Advocacy Leadership Institute, which empowers people with the tools they need to start building a grassroots movement for safe streets and bike access where they live or work.

And, of course, Aken will need to find a new Principal Planner to fill his old position. Aken sees this as a chance to “rebuild the team.” The job listings should be posted soon, he said.

Staff attrition at the club continues to be a problem ever since big staff shakeups began last year after Elizabeth Kiker took over the Executive Director role. Aken will be the club’s third Advocacy Director in less than a year. In fact, since David Hiller left the job to join Mayor Mike McGinn’s staff in 2011, nobody has held the job for much more than a year (Evan Manvel was there for 13 months, making him the longest-running Advocacy Director since Hiller).

Previous to his promotion, Aken was picked to be co-chair of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board. While there is plenty of precedent to having Cascade staff as chair of SBAB, this is the first time, at least in recent years, that a Director-level staffer will chair the volunteer advisory board. He begins his role as co-chair in September.

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9 responses to “Aken picked as Cascade’s new Advocacy Director, more staff changes coming”

  1. Great hire. I’m excited to work with Jeff in his new role.

  2. Kevin McDonald

    Congratulations! I will look forward to working more closely with Jeff on bicycling in Bellevue!

  3. Emily Kathrein

    Tom, great article! I am so excited for Cascade and Jeff – he’s going to be an amazing leader! The only sad part is that I won’t be there to work for him. Fortunately, I’ll be gone because I’ve accepted an amazing, amazing offer at the University of Washington. I’ll be working in the Transportation Services Department on commute options programming – biking, walking, transit! Yay for great things to come (like collaboration with Jeff and Cascade!).

    1. Gary

      Hi Emily,
      You should check out the bike racks at Western Washington Campus. http://www.onlinefast.org/wwutoday/sites/onlinefast.org.wwutoday/files/imagecache/full/bike-rack-2.jpg They are perfect for the weather around here.

      1. Emily Kathrein

        Hi Gary —

        I was actually just in Bellingham at Western drooling over those racks last weekend! No promises, but I’ll see what I can do at UW :)


  4. Concerned Cascade Member

    Why is the average tenure in this position less than a year? It’s not a good sign when talent doesn’t stick around: either the organization isn’t recruiting/hiring the right people, or the right people are being driven/lured away. In either case, it’s seems some serious reflection needs to take place.

    1. Emily Kathrein

      Hi Concerned Cascade Member,

      Although I stayed with the organization well over one year, I’m guessing this statement was rooted in my departure. Working at Cascade was one of the greatest, most fulfilling jobs I have ever had. If you’re interested in why I made the choice I did, please reach out to me! My email is [email protected] I’d love to have a conversation.


  5. […] advocacy effort led by Policy Director Blake Trask. And, as we reported recently, Cascade’s new Advocacy Director Jeff Aken said his style is all about collaboration with other organizations and community […]

  6. […] next person to take the job will be the fifth to hold that position in as many years.  Aken moved into the spot last August and will remain in the role until the position is […]

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