Name: Bill Henkel

Occupation: Executive Director, Community Action of Skagit County

How long have you been in this industry? 20 years

What is your background, work experience, and education
When I initially landed at Community Action in 2000 I managed the Adult & Family Education program, and then was promoted to Community Services Director before landing a job outside the county as the Director of an ambitious communitywide homeless services center. I returned in 2008 when I was appointed Executive Director. My education includes a BA in Economics from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and a MS in Communication and Writing from Oregon State University. I first got interested in and committed to anti-poverty work when I served in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa, the second poorest country in the world at the time and not long after a widespread famine. Not surprisingly I witnessed profound poverty and suffering – but also a richness of culture, family and community that impacted me deeply.

Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley? 20 years.

What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
Watching people grow their voice and confidence. Servant leadership and service above self, which is also the Rotary moto. I’m incredibly fortunate to work in a field that focuses on changing lives and building a stronger community for all. What could be more challenging? What could be better? 

What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
Changing lives is a combo of listening, nurturing the inner fire, recognizing and building on the brilliance and resilience within us all, and changing the conditions within a community that can either encourage or block a person reaching their goals, dreams and full potential.

What does community mean to you?
Community is the focus of my professional and personal life. Building a stronger community means discovering a common vision for the place we live and work no matter who you are or what your political, personal and cultural lens, and growing the voice of all its citizens. Thus relationships of trust are at its core. I love that difficult, sloppy, beautiful work, because it is the real work of living in a democracy, and among the greatest joys is feeling the momentum of a community that has come together for positive change.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
Hiking, camping, skiing, kayaking, traveling. I also enjoy music, all kinds. I played guitar since high school, but switched over to learning the 5-string banjo two years ago. It’s a work in progress! But I’ve enjoyed learning and having a chance to join a string band that plays mainly spirituals and re-imagined traditionals with a bluegrass flair.

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in?
I serve on the Mount Vernon Chamber Board, as well as the Steering Committee for the Skagit Population Health Trust, a cross sector effort to improve community health locally. I serve or have served on numerous local and regional advisory committees around housing, homelessness and behavioral health, and at the state level I was the former Board President for the Washington State Community Action Partnership. I also serve as vice moderator for First Congregational Church.