After first choice turns down job, King County homeless authority picks new CEO

Mar 19, 2021, 6:22 AM | Updated: 11:19 am

Seattle homeless, hotels, homeless authority ceo, housing...

People sleep outside on a sidewalk on April 6, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

After a search that extended nearly a year, King County’s nascent homeless authority saw its first choice turn down the job. Now, it finally has its leader, having tagged Ohio-based policy strategist Marc Dones.

King County, Seattle finally unveil next steps for unified homeless effort

Dones informed the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) that they would be accepting the role on Thursday, with an April 26 start date now on the calendar.

Dones was integral in building out the homeless authority in its early developmental days, and is credited as one of its primary architects. They currently serve as the executive director of the National Innovation Service (NIS), an advocacy group that focuses largely on reshaping racial equity in the United States. Dones also worked with then-governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick on the “design and implementation” of a youth violence production program spanning 11 cities.

“Government is only what we agree to do together,” Dones told The Seattle Times. “I feel like we have a chance to really get some stuff right, and really build and run a system that is really focused on the right things, and is listening to everybody, rather than, in the traditional bureaucrat mode, ‘we know what’s best for all of you.’ That’s not my approach.”

The KCRHA’s implementation board had originally hoped to select a CEO by September 2020. That process was delayed by a combination of infighting and pandemic-related obstacles. Atlanta policy consultant Regina Cannon was originally scheduled to assume the mantle in March as the authority’s first official employee, and would have been tasked with filling out the rest of the organization’s staffing.

Seattle, County homeless response paralyzed by bureaucracy

Cannon informed the authority’s board that she would be turning down the role in February. Dones’ name was floated as a possible alternative at the time, as the runner-up to Cannon when she was chosen.

The KCRHA was designed to oversee countywide policy, funding, and services for people experiencing homelessness. It was originally crafted by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and was amended by members of their respective councils and committees. The organization’s funding is split between King County and Seattle, paying $56.8 million and $75 million, respectively, for things like start-up costs, administrative funding, and services.

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After first choice turns down job, King County homeless authority picks new CEO