Seattle’s Most Influential People 2019: Ones to Watch

These 13 visionaries have big things on the horizon

By Kendall Upton & Lauren Alexander November 4, 2019


This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue, as part of the Most Influential People of the Year feature. Click here to subscribe.

Environmental Policy
Brady Walkinshaw
Brady Walkinshaw, CEO of the online environmental news outlet Grist since 2017, hopes to usher in a new era of concrete actions and solutions for environmental justice. Walkinshaw’s breadth of experience, from working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fighting for environmental policy reform as a Washington state legislator, should make him a formidable leader, while Grist continues to advocate for a sustainable, just future.

Gender Equity
Aparna Rae and Sage Ke‘alohilani Quiamno
This year, Sage Ke‘alohilani Quiamno and Aparna Rae founded Future For Us, an organization committed to advancing women of color (WOC) in the workplace. Through career, culture and community development programs, their Seattle-based platform aims to address equity and pay issues for WOC, giving them tools to succeed in business, government and community organizations and other arenas. They will be coming home November 8 for the final stop on their “The State of Womxn of Color” roadshow event.

Harlan and Chad Robins
Harlan and Chad Robins, brothers and cofounders of Adaptive Biotechnologies, a biotech startup that maps the genetic code of the immune system, announced their $230 million initial public offering last May. Their immunosequencing technology holds great promise for cancer research within Seattle’s already booming health care and biotech sector. Recent partnerships with Microsoft and Genentech, along with a new 100,000-square-foot headquarters in South Lake Union, reflect the company’s rapid growth.

CEO of Armoire, Ambika Singh. Photo by Ryan Cory

Ambika Singh
Ambika Singh is transforming the retail fashion industry while helping to boost the success of businesswomen through her clothing rental company, Armoire. Through the service, stylists select clothing based on your style and measurements, then send the items to you; articles of clothing can be swapped out for new items at any time, reducing both shopping time and the environmental impact of discarded clothing. Armoire is expected to grow substantially thanks to recent investments in the company.

Police Reform
Carmen Best
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best—the first African American chief of police in the department’s history—has been reforming the Seattle Police Department (SPD) since her promotion in 2018. As chief, Best oversees the court-ordered mandate to address excessive force and biased policing. Federal oversight of the SPD will continue over the next two years, but Best hopes to address critical staffing issues while continuing to make reforms.

Stephanie Formas
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s chief of staff, Stephanie Formas, served as Durkan’s spokeswoman during the mayor’s campaign in 2016, and as her former communications director, Formas continues to work closely with the media. As one of the mayor’s most influential aides, she will continue acting as a liaison between the mayor’s office and the public.

Political Activism
Guy Palumbo
Guy Palumbo, a former Washington state senator who recently stepped down from his seat in the Legislature, has assumed his new role as Amazon’s director of public policy for the state. As an advocate for clean energy, higher-education funding and transportation, Palumbo prioritizes equitable solutions while striving to repair the city’s relationship with Amazon.

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Most Influential, Arts: Jose Iñiguez

Most Influential, Arts: Jose Iñiguez

Educator, musician

Jose Iñiguez discovered the art of opera through a PBS special. As a teenager, he came across a program featuring a tenor singing an aria while watching TV with his dad... Photo by Ashley Genevieve

Most Influential, Education: Quinton Morris

Most Influential, Education: Quinton Morris

Artist, educator

I’m committed to educating and helping students transform their lives through Key to Change. My goal is to expand the program to reach more students... Photo by Sung Park

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Chef, author

López-Alt is a two-time James Beard Award-winner, with all three of his books making it onto The New York Times bestseller list. His latest book, The Wok, currently in bookstores, won him his second James Beard Award this year. Photo by J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

General director, Seattle Opera

On November 22, 1981, a teenage Christina Scheppelmann saw Don Carlo in Hamburg, Germany. The five-act opera, which Scheppelmann called an “incredibly monumental, relevant piece of music,” displayed the life and conflicts of a fictional 16th-century European prince. From then on, she was in love. “(Opera) is incredibly emotional. It’s exciting,” she says. “If you…