Former Olympia Mayor and city councilman Doug Mah has been elected to the SPSCC board of trustees and joined his first board meeting at the beginning of April. Citing a positive experience during the meeting, According to Mah, “This board is very experienced all in all, we have a couple of board members that have served for a very long time; this feels like a good time to be joining.” Mah says that his intent in joining the board is not to come in and effect change, but to continue improving on what the current board has already put into place. He replaces Trustee Brian Vance who served for more than 10 years.
Mah is well known in Olympia as the immediate past mayor from 2008 to 2011. He served a total 10 years on the Olympia City Council (2001-2011), which included two terms as Council Member. Mah is the first Chinese-American to serve as Mayor of Olympia. Mah says, “Being a minority in a public office, brings some extra responsibilities and expectations — you always remind yourself to advocate for minority populations and I think just being at the table encourages others to think that way.” During his time as mayor, Mah influenced significant positive change in the community by championing public investments for a children’s museum, regional fire training facility, fire station, and a new city hall; to name a few.
Far from being an inexperienced public figure, Mah has served on several public boards including, the Thurston County Food Bank, Timberland Regional Library, Capital Medical Center, and United Way of Thurston County. One of Mah’s first experiences in public service was for the library’s advisory board; he says it was his, “first foray into a much larger world.” Mah’s experience in public service continues to grow with his new position.
The board’s main role is to make administrative decisions regarding school policy and direct funding to its appropriate placement. Citing the five core themes of the college’s Pathway to Prosperity pamphlet, Mah says, “Those are all really solid core themes to rally around. As a new board member it’s nice to see that this is laid out; really all five speak to what my interests are as a board member.” Mah’s ambitions center around community and innovation. He says, “I’m interested in how the college builds and works with the greater community. So that fits in nicely; innovation is really important nowadays in terms of creating an environment where we can innovate and think outside of the box; for faculty, students, and staff.” Mah believes community colleges are the “cornerstone for building community,” and considers himself honored to part of that work.
Despite Mah’s impressive experience, he did not begin with personal aims in public policy, but, rather sought a very different path. Mah began a career pursuing law enforcement, serving as a reserve deputy in Whatcom County and had a short commission with Western Police Department. Seeking more education, Mah decided, “I’ll go into law school and become a prosecutor.” Shortly thereafter, however, Mah met a girl who moved him to stay at Western Washington University for the next two years where he completed his Master’s degree in Sociology/ Demography.
Mah’s considerable experience makes him a valued addition to the SPSCC Board of Trustees where he hopes to foster an environment of student retention, and transparency. “My experience in city government has been you really can’t go wrong by being more transparent in your decision making,” says Mah. All in all, he aims to maintain an open door regarding policy issues of concern to students and faculty alike. Mah says students should use the campus as a place to explore exercising their rights, innovation, and thinking outside of the box.