West Seattle Blog… | CONGRATULATIONS! Deb Barker to ride in West Seattle Grand Parade as 2022 Orville Rummel Trophy honoree
the West Seattle Grand Parade is back this Saturday and so is a tradition that accompanies it – choosing someone to honor with the Orville Rummel Trophy for Outstanding Service to the Community.
This year, the trophy goes to Deb Barkerwhose current community-service roles include president of the Morgan Community Associationboard member of the West Seattle Transportation Coalitionand member of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force – but that’s only the latest in a long, long list spanning more than 30 years. Here’s a biography of Deb Barker, provided by parade organizers:
Barker is perhaps best known locally in three roles — as president of the Morgan Community Association (MoCA) since 2009, as one of a three-member LLC to save the iconic Stone Cottage on Harbor Avenue and as an active voice on the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force since its inception in 2020.
However, Barker’s West Seattle involvement extends back more than three decades, starting in 1989, when she was one of three steering committee members of the Save the Admiral Theater Task Force of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which led the successful drive to secure city landmark status for the peninsula’s only movie house. She also served on the historical society’s board from 1989 to 1992, helping coordinate the organization’s initial “Homes with History” tours.
Barker’s preservation focus resurfaced in West Seattle when she was part of the multi-organizational steering committee for the 4Culture-funded study, “What Makes the West Seattle Junction Special?” This became the foundation of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s successful 2016-2017 campaign to landmark the business district’s cornerstone Campbell and Hamm buildings.
Her West Seattle activism has extended beyond heritage preservation. She served on the Southwest Design Review Board from 2004 to 2009, as the board steered architects toward human-scale elements for such projects as The Spruce complex, Admiral Safeway rebuild and the California at Charlestown mixed use buildings.
Transportation planning became another local emphasis for Barker when in 2013 she became a founding member of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, which became a unified peninsula voice for equitable transportation and mobility issues.
Starting in 2018, Barker went further, joining Sound Transit advisory boards to help educate the community about light rail proposals while educating Sound Transit about West Seattle.
As part of such service, she has participated in countless online meetings to provide public comments on the routing of a light-rail extension in West Seattle. When the proposed ST3 “preferred above ground alignment” was to end in the junction, she created a scale model of the plan and became an advocate of a tunnel alternative.
Also in 2018, Barker also helped organize the peninsula’s District 1 Community Network. The only organization of its kind in the city, the network encourages various neighborhood voices to remain active.
As MoCA president, Barker has kept Morgan Junction residents informed about issues and celebrated its businesses. She helped guide the community through recent upzoning and affordable housing challenges, advocating for quality design as the density increases. She also presides over the Morgan Junction Community Festival, held each June at Morgan Junction Park at California Avenue and Southwest Eddy Street.
Her participation on the LLC for the Save the Stone Cottage Committee since 2019 helped execute a successful overnight move of the building in 2021 to Port of Seattle property along Harbor Avenue, where the stone-studded structure awaits a permanent move to a site
where it can be restored and opened to the public.
Although the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force has completed its meetings, Barker looks forward to the projected September reopening of the West Seattle Bridge. Barker, 65, was born in Illinois into a Navy family that moved frequently, mostly on the West Coast. She and her husband, Mark Shaw, live in the Seaview neighborhood of Morgan Junction.
Originally a theatrical costumer, Barker moved to Seattle in 1985, working as a shopper and rental agent in the Seattle Repertory Theater costume shop. As a freelancer, she coordinated costumes for the 1990 Seattle-based Goodwill Games opening ceremonies, and eventually joined the local wardrobe union, becoming president of IATSE Local 887.
Her mainstay career, however, became civics. She obtained a master’s degree in urban design and planning from the University of Washington, and in 1990 she was hired as the first land-use intern at the newly incorporated city of Federal Way. There, she worked as a planner, reviewing and approving development proposals, briefing the city council and assisting the public. She retired in 2012.
Barker’s ardor for West Seattle issues has been mirrored by similarly passionate citywide involvement. She joined the board of Historic Seattle from 1986 to 1992, aiding in development of the Bel-Boy (Belmont-Boylston) affordable-housing complex on First Hill and in the growth of the organization’s Good Shepherd Center.
Her citywide service resumed in 2013, when Barker began a seven-year stint on the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. She co-chaired the board from 2015 to 2020, a span during which the board conferred landmark status for prominent buildings such as Climate Pledge Arena (the former Coliseum and Key Arena), the Federal Reserve Bank Building and the ASUW Shell House, made famous by the book “The Boys in the Boat.”
Vivid memories emerge as Barker reflects on her West Seattle activism, from “sailing” along with the Admiral Theater float in the 1989 West Seattle Grand Parade to knocking on doors and “approaching total strangers” to seek permission for their residences to become part of a Homes with History tour.
Barker plans to stay involved in local concerns, including seeking landmark status for other West Seattle Junction buildings. She says her array of interests reflects her deep love of the city as a whole and especially the Duwamish peninsula: “My business card reads, ‘I Love West Seattle.’ It’s a good icebreaker because people enjoy sharing their West Seattle memories, but I also tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I just love giving back to my community.”
The West Seattle Grand Parade starts at California/Lander at 11 am Saturday (July 23rd) and proceeds south on California to Edmunds – you can watch from anywhere along the route. We’ll have previews all week leading up to the big day.
ABOUT THE ORVILLE RUMMEL AWARD: It’s named after the man who founded the West Seattle parade in 1934, Orville Rummel – lots of background in the story we published the year we were honored with the trophy, 2010. The award was first presented in 1984. Here’s the full list of recipients along the way: