Debbie Schuffenhauer, Executive Director of Serve Washington joined the America’s Service Commissions Board of Directors in September 2014.
How did you get to where you are today? In 1989, I began an 18-year career at the Washington Service Corps (WSC). The WSC, a state-funded service corps, began 10 years before AmeriCorps and was one of the first (and largest) single state AmeriCorps programs in the country. While at the WSC, I held various positions including eight years as Deputy Director. I began working at the state commission as Associate Director in 2006 and in 2012 Governor Gregoire appointed me to replace Bill Basl as Executive Director after he was named the Director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service.
What has been your best moment so far serving with your state commission? Since I’ve been working in AmeriCorps for 20 years, I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one moment. But among my favorite moments were two swearing-in ceremonies: the inauguration of the Washington Vet Corps program and the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps.
What advice do you have for others at commissions? Or what is the best advice you’ve received? The best advice I’ve ever given to others and received is to get out of the office and into the community. Visit programs. Serve with members. Their passion and commitment reignite my enthusiasm for national service when I get too caught up in administrivia.
What keeps you motivated? Being innovative, cultivating partnerships and looking for new ways to address community needs through service and volunteerism keeps me motivated.
In one word, what would you describe as your greatest strength? Creativity.
How do you prepare yourself when you know something is going to be controversial or challenging? When dealing with an issue or situation that’s controversial or challenging, first and foremost I prepare by anticipating different perspectives and seeking to understand others’ points of view. I strive to be an active listener, assume positive intent and build common ground.