Patrick Taylor, Board President
Patrick Taylor grew up across the Puget Sound from Seattle and used to skip school to come hang out in the city. He is a designer at a small architecture firm with a strong focus on urban infill housing. He is passionate about design, housing affordability, biking, and what makes cities so magical. He works to advocate for abundant and diverse housing options and for a city that is a joy for people on bikes and foot. He has served on The Urbanist board since 2018 as education and programming director. He took over as board chair in April 2022. He is currently co-chair of the AIA Housing Task Force, a member of the Othello Station Community Action Team, and a past two term member of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, serving most of that time as a co-chair and its representative on the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee. He lives in the Othello neighborhood of Seattle with his wife, child, and kitty. Follow him on Twitter @pwalchtaylor or email him at patrick [at] theurbanist.org.
Ruth Lipscomb, Board Vice President
Ruth Lipscomb is a retired software engineer, investor, and philanthropist. She lives in Bellevue, volunteers with progressive nonprofit organizations, and fosters kittens. In 2021, she ran for Bellevue City Council against an incumbent Republican. Alas, Bellevue stuck with the Republican, but her campaign opened her eyes to the dearth of in-depth media coverage on the Eastside and inspired her to get more involved with The Urbanist and join the board. The Urbanist is one of the few organizations reporting on the happenings at Bellevue City Hall.
Shaun Kuo, Treasurer
Shaun Kuo is a recent graduate from the University of Washington’s Jackson School, and current master’s student at UW Tacoma’s MA in Community Planning. He is a Seattle native who has lived in Wallingford, Northgate, and Lake Forest Park. He enjoys exploring the city by bus and foot. He joined the board as treasurer in 2020. Shaun also serves as an editor and writes about energy policy, development, and parks. Follow him on Twitter @kuo_shaun or send him an email at shaun [at] theurbanist [dot] org.
Kelli Refer, Secretary
As a transportation policy expert, Kelli focuses on the intersections of land use, public health, social justice, and how people move around cities. Previously she worked as legislative aid for Councilmember Mike O’Brien and worked on several pieces of legislation for the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition. She is also a bicycle advocate, who strives to make riding bikes a safe and accessible way for people to get around, especially for families. Whenever possible her family loves to combine the bus, bikes and hiking shoes to explore Washington’s beautiful state parks.
Erin Fried, Boardmember
Erin is deputy director of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, a project of Community Roots Housing. She is also a writer, planner, and conflict resolution specialist with expertise in social marketing, community organizing, and peace-building. She has 12 years of experience in research, advocacy, and program management across a range of focus areas, including affordable housing, climate change, disaster recovery, immigration reform, and the arts. She is committed to approaching all issues through the lens of equity, and leads a racial equity workgroup at The Urbanist.
Charles Adkins, Boardmember
Charles Adkins is an advocate and proud enrolled member of the Yurok Tribe who focuses on local and state advocacy. He currently works as a Legislative Policy Analyst for the Tulalip Tribes. From his childhood on the Yurok reservation, he was sent to one of the remaining Indian Boarding Schools where his experiences helped inform his fight for social and economic justice. His father, a decorated combat veteran from Afghanistan, suffered from PTSD which eventually led to Charles leaving home as a teenager and soon finding himself homeless. Charles’ passion to help others like himself saw him earn a degree and rise to prominence in the political community.
His experience encompasses roles such as Vice President of Federal Affairs for Washington Students Association, The State Advisory Council on Homelessness, and as a contract lobbyist. He currently is the Councilmember representing Tribal Nations on the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s Advisory Council, he also is the Chair for the City of Everett’s ReThink Housing Action Plan Committee and is a member of the City of Everett’s Planning Commission, and serves on several boards including the Children’s Campaign fund and previously served on the board of the Washington Student Association. One of his proudest career achievements is authoring and successfully lobbying for the passage of Senate Bill 5800 which launched a pilot program in which colleges provide additional assistance for homeless and food insecure students. Charles holds a degree in Tribal Administration and resides in Everett.
Jesse Simpson, Boardmember
Jesse Simpson is the Government Relations and Policy Manager for the Housing Development Consortium. Jesse grew up in West Seattle, majored in Environmental Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, and has lived in Capitol Hill since 2018. He started out in the housing policy world by volunteering to advocate for more density in urban areas and funding for affordable homes. He spends his free time walking and biking around Seattle, traveling around to other cities, exploring local arts, playing chess, and building community.
Crystal Fincher, Boardmember
Crystal Fincher is the Founder and Principal of Fincher Consulting, a full service political consulting firm. She hosts Hacks & Wonks, a twice weekly radio show discussing the impacts of Washington state politics and policy on local and disenfranchised communities that airs on Seattle’s KVRU 105.7 FM and via podcast. Over the past decade, Crystal has helped local, legislative and statewide candidates and issue campaigns win in Washington, California, Nevada. Fincher Consulting has helped advocacy and political organizations deploy successful strategies to build power, engagement and turnout, particularly in underrepresented areas and among infrequent voters. Crystal served on the City of Kent Land Use and Planning Board as the first African-American and youngest member in its history and on the board of Tabor 100 as the Economic Development Committee Chair. She resides in Kent with her son.
Rubén Casas, Boardmember
Rubén is a scholar and teacher of rhetoric and writing at the University of Washington Tacoma. He is also the faculty lead of the Urban Environmental Justice Initiative at Urban@UW. In his work and advocacy, Rubén examines how cities and the institutions that comprise them imagine, plan, and build in ways that promote and/or discourage community and a sense of place.
Breana Brown, Boardmember
Breana Brown is a housing policy enthusiast and professional with deep roots in the Puget Sound. She has worked in affordable housing development for over a decade and is especially interested in local policy and how it impacts communities. She is a Seattle native who lives in the Central District and enjoys exploring the city by foot – especially when it leads to interesting new restaurants or dog parks.
Rian Watt, Boardmember
Rian Watt is the Strategy Lead for International & Initiative Large-Scale Change at Community Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to demonstrating that ending homelessness is possible, one community at a time. At CS, he supports partners building large-scale movements to end homelessness across Australia, Canada, Denmark, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
He rents in Seattle with his wife, and has previously lived in Georgia, Belgium, London, Boston, and the suburbs of Chicago. In addition to his board service at The Urbanist, Rian serves on the boards of Futurewise, a statewide land use advocacy organization, and the Third Door Coalition, a group advocating for permanent supportive housing in King County.
Previously, Rian volunteered as a commissioner on the Seattle Planning Commission and as a Meal Coordinator two nights a week for Teen Feed, a low-barrier meal program for homeless and unstably housed youth. Rian has also freelanced as a professional baseball writer covering the Mariners and national baseball as a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He’s the proud son of immigrants (from West Bengal and Scotland, respectively).
Jesse Swingle, Boardmember
Jesse Swingle is a marketing professional with experience at nonprofits who currently works in the cannabis industry. He is the current board vice president for FIUTS, a non-profit organization founded at UW focused on promoting international understanding and community, and a past board member for the Seattle Opera. He’s a long-time reader of The Urbanist who we are excited to welcome to the board. He grew up in Sequim. He attended University of British Columbia for undergrad and recently completed an MBA at Seattle University.