Most Influential

Most Influential, Business: Joy Shigaki

President & CEO, Friends of Waterfront Seattle

By Nat Rubio-Licht January 17, 2024

Joy Shigaki

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Born and raised in Seattle, Joy Shigaki grew up in a family that has long valued service and community. “They modeled a life that wasn’t simply about my needs,” she says. “It was about how I could be of service to others.”

Her familial dedication to service and passion for community followed her into her 20-year career working in the nonprofit, government, and community development field in roles across the U.S. and internationally. In September 2022, Shigaki took over as CEO of Friends of Waterfront Seattle, where she works to manage, program, and fundraise to revitalize the city’s Waterfront Park.

Prior to returning to Seattle, Shigaki served as the vice president of development for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, where she helped raise $98 million for the Presidio Tunnel Tops in San Francisco. In her career, she’s held numerous senior positions in the government and nonprofit space, including with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Episcopal Relief and Development, and the Coro New York Leadership Center.

Since starting with Friends of the Waterfront, she’s worked alongside artists, community leaders, and local organizations to bring public performances and programs to fruition. In her role, she’s spearheading the Campaign for Waterfront Park, aiming to complete $200 million in fundraising by June 2025.

From 2004 to 2007, Shigaki managed a $23.2 million capital project to make a permanent home for the Wing Luke Museum in the Chinatown-International District.

Shigaki is a fourth-generation Seattleite, and her family immigrated to the United States from Japan more than 110 years ago. Her ancestors experienced internment in Minidoka, Idaho, during World War II. Her family’s struggle lit a fire in her to fight for others.

“As a young adult, I connected the struggle and fight for civil liberties and civic rights to other social and racial movements locally, nationally, and globally,” Shigaki says. “They are all connected. This continues to center in how I move through the world.”

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