WTS Puget Sound Chapter History
The WTS Puget Sound/Seattle Chapter has been working for 37+ years to advance women in transportation. Hear more about our story below!
History of the WTS Puget Sound Chapter
First WTS Chapter Meeting? or Seattle Suffragettes, 1910
Photo Source: HistoryLink.Org; Courtesy UW
The First Ten Years
It was the fall of 1982 when the chapter had its first general meeting. According to legend, the meeting was held in the King County Morgue. The surroundings must have invigorated the group because within the first 6 months of becoming a WTS chapter, membership stood at 52. The early years were lean years and most everything was accomplished with a shoestring budget.
Newsletters were collated by hand and hand delivered to save postage. The very first scholarship was a $50 book award. Chapter leadership was crafty and set their sights on inviting high-profile colleagues to join WTS. Renee Montgelas was instrumental in encouraging the Governor Booth Gardner to join WTS. And it was Alinda Page who spearheaded the fundraising effort to give a complimentary membership to then Secretary of Transportation Duane Berentsen who became an active member. One of the first big breaks for the chapter was an invitation to sponsor the Washington State Transportation Conference. The chapter scraped together some funds and became a sponsor of the conference, a tradition that continues today. It was this type of enthusiasm and creativity that guided the chapter through its first ten years.
Membership grew in the late 1980s and into the 1990s and as members moved on with their careers, they brought their new firms and agencies along with them. While budgets were no longer shoestring, there wasn’t always money for everything. The chapter looked to corporate sponsorship and many of our corporate sponsored board meeting space, newsletters, chapter directories and the like.
During the first ten years the chapter was able to award 16 scholarships to women studying transportation at local universities, provide more than 90 educational programs and social event that strengthened the networking opportunities amongst women in transportation in this region, and promotes the professional development of women through workshops and opportunities as chapter leaders. These activities made WTS membership necessary if one wanted to be in-the-know and connected to cutting edge decision-making. Defining the rise in importance was the invitation to host the 1991 National Conference which was indeed the crowning jewel of the first ten years.
Crowds arriving at King Street Station on a Sounder train: going to the Seahawks game? or a WTS Chapter meeting?
The Second Decade
The last decade has been marked by continuous growth and increasing recognition of the value WTS provides to transportation professionals and students in our region. Just four years after hosting the National Conference, the chapter was honored to host the 1995 WTS Western Regional Meeting. Whereas the National Conference addressed the broad national issues of the day, the Western Regional Meeting allowed greater focus on transportation issues in the western states.
Today in Seattle, WTS has become the most visible and valued forum for constructive debate and airing ideas and concerns in transportation. As Washington state has been barraged by legislative initiatives and has had to face tough funding choices that have caused considerable change in transportation in this region, the Puget Sound chapter has brought in the most knowledgeable experts and most recognized leaders to clarify specific issues and challenges in state and regional transportation. Our most recent speakers have included the Governor, a US Senator, several state senators and house members, leaders of our regional transportation and port agencies, project managers, and experts from academia. Our Chapter’s Legislative Programs remain must attend events.
The Chapter no longer operates on a shoestring. In 2000, the Chapter surpassed its fundraising goal enabling the Chapter to expand the scholarship program and fund two highly competitive academic scholarships. The Gala that year had more than 250 in attendance to hear Senator Patty Murray address the group. IN the 1990s the Gala live auction was developed to make fundraising more fun not only for the Board but for those attending the Gala. It has become a signature event generating funds for the local scholarships. Since then, the successes of the Galas are attributed to growing recognition in the mid 1990s that we had to think bigger and aiming very high in terms of who we might secure for keynotes, and how we might reach out more effectively to our membership and those in the industry. As the chapter has set new records for scholarship fundraising, it also implemented the need-based Chapter scholarship, which was also made possible by the revenues generated by the ongoing success of our monthly programs. Our goal in this and future years is to continue to focus on identifying the most-time sensitive, politically charged, and technically rich program areas that will attract the diverse group of professionals that make up our transportation community.