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Introducing Helen Howell, Seattle Human Services Interim Director

Helen HowellIn January 2021, the City of Seattle welcomed Helen Howell as interim director of the Seattle Human Services Department. Aging and Disability Services, while serving clients countywide as the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County, is a division of this department.

No stranger to Aging Network services, Helen was once director of the Pierce County Human Services Department, which houses the Area Agency on Aging for Pierce County.

Helen’s extensive executive management experience includes more than 30 years of public policy, advocacy, and leadership, with special focus on change management and process improvement.

In appointing Helen director on an interim basis, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the City will embark on an inclusive, nationwide search for the permanent director. Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington will lead the recruitment process and announce next steps for the search process after working with employees.

“It’s my pleasure to serve Mayor Durkan and the people of Seattle,” said Helen Howell. “The department’s focus areas resonate with me personally and they’re important in ensuring continuing livability in our great city.”

Seattle Human Services focuses on preparing youth for success, supporting affordability, addressing homelessness, advocating for public health, supporting safe communities, and promoting healthy aging.

Helen has served at all levels of government, including positions in Washington, DC, where she advised U.S. Senator Patty Murray. Additionally, Helen served as a Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Staff Secretary at the White House under President Bill Clinton.

Closer to home, Helen served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Gary Locke, and as the State’s lead regulator of financial services when he appointed her to direct the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.

Before Helen joined the Human Services Department, she served on the executive team at King County Housing Authority, the largest provider of affordable housing in the Pacific Northwest, leading policy, research, and evaluation, homeless housing initiatives, and the Housing Choice Voucher Program. She also was the Executive Director of Building Changes, a Seattle-based nonprofit working to reduce youth and family homelessness in Washington state. Prior to these experiences, Helen led the Pierce County Human Services Department.

Helen earned her undergraduate degree from Vassar College, a diploma in legal studies (Jurisprudence and Moral & Political Philosophy) from Oxford University, and a law degree from Columbia University.

As the Interim Director of Seattle Human Services, Helen leads nearly 400 staff who make the department’s role as a grantmaker, planner, and direct service provider possible. In addition to Aging and Disability Services, divisions include Youth and Family Empowerment, Safe & Thriving Communities, Homelessness Strategy and Investment, and Leadership and Administration.

Learn more about the Seattle Human Services Department at

Posted in Services