Simply put, Cascade Bicycle Club will not be able to replace Ed Ewing.
“We’re not going to be the same without him,” said Cascade’s Executive Director Elizabeth Kiker. And it’s true.
Ewing is best known for starting the club’s Major Taylor Project, a small idea that was just supposed to be an after-school activity but turned into a youth-empowering, community-building institution reaching 450 students in 14 schools in the south end of Seattle, south King County and Tacoma.
“I’ve been having a really honest gut check with myself and where I am in my life,” Ewing said.
And with the Major Taylor Project cruising, perhaps it’s time to move on to new challenges. His last day will be November 4.
“The Project is in really, really good shape,” he said. “What do great leaders do? They know when it’s time to go,” he said. “You make sure members of the team and the work are held in equal importance … and can stand alone without you.”
In the near term, Major Taylor Project Coordinator Rich Brown will be moving up to take on more responsibility. And the project is at the point now where it is hiring former students, which Ewing is very excited about.
Major Taylor is itself an impressive feat, but it’s Ewing’s leadership within Cascade that has made him such a powerful guiding light for an organization striving to be a better community partner beyond the mostly-white audience it draws with many of its major events. Through Major Taylor, Ewing developed a community-building theory where an organization like Cascade can be a meaningful partner in communities of color where they had limited presence before.
“[Major Taylor] is an opportunity to partner authentically with and within communities of color,” he said. It never felt helpful for while-led organizations to come into communities of color with a program the organization decided was the solution to that communities problems, he said. Instead, he urged the club to “build relationships in the community authentically … then ask them, ‘What are the goals of your community, and how can we support those goals?’”
This approach was exemplified in Cascade’s partnership with the YES! Foundation of White Center and other community members to develop and build the now-open Bike Playground. As Ewing and YES! Director Pat Thompson told Seattle Bike Blog a year ago, the playground idea came from discussions with community leaders. They identified a need together that Cascade had the resources to pursue and help make reality.
“A lot of this has come because we partnered with White Center through Major Taylor for eight years now, so we’ve gotten to know the community and have gotten in the position to ask the leaders in the community,” said Ewing in 2015.
As Ewing moves on from the club, he’s not exactly sure what his next chapter will be. He’s looking to “take the skills I developed with Major Taylor and expand that impact.”
But his departure puts a lot of pressure on Cascade, which is still working to figure out how equity can be a core value in all their work beyond Major Taylor. Cascade has long needed Ed more than Ed needed Cascade. Now they have to figure out to take what they’ve learned from him and apply it across all their work without him.
“As a staff, we had a very thoughtful conversation over the course of several months about our values, and one of those is diversity,” said Cascade’s Chief Strategic Officer (and former Director of WA Bikes) Barb Chamberlain referring to a major strategic plan overhaul the club went through recently. The club is now creating a committee directly focused on diversity and inclusion.
“It’s a pretty thoughtful process, but it’s going to take a lot of time,” she said. After all, filling all the roles Ed played is going to take a lot more than just hiring someone new to take his position.
“It’s not one person’s work … it is everyone’s work,” said Kiker.
Cascade, meanwhile, has had a number of other recent departures from its Education Department, and they were in the process of restructuring those positions even before Ewing announced his departure, said Education Director Shannon Koller.
“We want to make sure we’re posting the right jobs,” Kiker said. This includes new field coordinator positions to support Major Taylor work as well as positions to help run the club’s revamped and expanded PE programming at schools across the region.
In the immediate term, the club is hiring a new Human Resources Manager. So if you know someone in HR who likes to hit the ground sprinting, tell them to apply.
On a personal note, I know I have learned a lot from Ed just by being around him and reporting about his work. I get the feeling the world has not heard the last of Ed Ewing.
Here’s the note Ewing posted to Facebook about his departure:
With heartfelt appreciation and gratitude, I have made the decision to pedal into the next stage of my career. My last day at Cascade Bicycle Club and as Director of the Major Taylor Project will be Friday, November 4.
Nine years ago, I accepted the challenge to create a small pilot program to reach schools in communities of color with a basic bicycling curriculum. Sketched on a napkin, the Major Taylor Project began with guidance from Ron Sims, Dr. Rayburn Lewis, Chuck Ayers, and Dr. John Vassall, Keith Holt, Anthony Taylor, Louis Moore, and Kenneth R. Walker. Through organizational and community support, authentic engagement, and unwavering commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Major Taylor Project has evolved into a thriving initiative. Starting with two schools reaching 34 students, the Project now reaches 14 schools, over 450 students and 250 students have completed STP. The Major Taylor Project has evolved into an initiative of community partnership, transformation, and opportunity.
I would like to personally and professionally thank each of you for your partnership, your volunteerism, your collaboration, your support, and most of all, your friendship. I want to thank each of you for every tube, glove, shoe, pedal, jersey, bib, crank, frame, tire, wheel, sock, pump, bike, and skinsuit, you’ve donated over the past nine years. I want to thank each of you for cheering on the Major Taylor Project students riding through your neighborhood, in a CX race, or crossing the STP finish line!
Keep the momentum going…keep it in the BIG Ring and keep supporting these students! They are great kids, in great communities, doing great things! The Major Taylor Project is poised to double in size by 2021 reaching 30+ schools in Washington State! Pat Thompson and Rick Harwood, thank you for your vision and seeing the possibility for the Major Taylor Project and for your confidence in my leadership. To the Brown Hornet and to the Major Taylor Project Ride Leader community, you are the prefect stewards for the Major Taylor Project initiative. Through your collective leadership, knowledge, experience, and passion, the Major Taylor Project is poised for significant, impactful, and meaningful growth.
Cascade Bicycle Club is a wonderful organization doing amazing work. There are so many of you to thank, so many of you who have contributed to this success. Each of you has made the Major Taylor Project what it is today and each of you will help fulfill the promise of its future. I am forever grateful, I am forever humble.
It has been a remarkable nine years. Thank you for your support!
(Editor’s Disclosure: My spouse Kelli works for Cascade)