On May 31, 2017, Cathy Knight joined the Human Services Department as director of Aging and Disability Services (ADS), the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. Cathy had been the state director for the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging (W4A). For the past 11 years, she has coordinated policy and legislative advocacy on behalf of Washington’s 13 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). Prior to W4A, Cathy served as a community consultant for DSHS Aging & Long-Term Support Administration and the Bainbridge Island School District, working on capacity building, fund-raising, and partnership development. She first transitioned to the aging network in Washington state in 1990 as a planner for the Olympic Area Agency on Aging.
Before moving to Washington, Cathy directed advocacy initiatives at the state and local levels in Wisconsin, first as staff to the Wisconsin Council for Developmental Disabilities and later as executive director for The Arc of Dane County. Cathy’s strong sense of social justice was solidified early in her career as she participated in the deinstitutionalization and mainstreaming of young people with intellectual disabilities. She worked with individuals who exceeded all expectations when given the opportunity to return to their families and their communities. That experience shaped her philosophy about human services—respect for personal choice, maximizing independence, and building upon natural supports.
Cathy’s advocacy experience will serve ADS well, as all human services face uncertain times with proposed cuts to our federal safety net services and a potential state government shutdown looming over lack of agreement on a budget. “Federal and state funding, already diminishing as the Age Wave is hitting the entire country, is threatened because of serious political divides,” Cathy said. “As good stewards of the limited funds we will receive, the aging network will need to be even more creative, efficient, and data-driven to maximize our impact with whatever dollars we receive.”
Stewardship is another core value for Cathy, something she understands well from her childhood on her grandparents’ farm in southern Ohio. As tenant farmers, they owned nothing but their self-respect—and a few cows and chickens. Cathy and her siblings worked hard and were responsible for everything under their charge, whether it belonged to them or not. She learned respect for her elders and compassion for all who are struggling, regardless of the reason. Cathy applied those beliefs and a strong work ethic to earning an education, culminating in a Ph.D. in Studies in Behavioral Disabilities from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cathy has lived on Bainbridge Island with her husband, Pogo, since 1989. They raised two boys who “flew the coop” in recent years and are making their own way in the world. Cathy says she is super excited to now be part of the Human Services Department Aging and Disability Services team!
Contributor Catherine Lester directs the Seattle Human Services Department.