Roadside Chat with Jeanné Clark, SDOT Creative Services Manager

Transportation has long been at the heart of Jeanné’s career. Prior to SDOT, she worked with WSDOT on the SR 520 Floating Bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. When Jeanné first came to SDOT in 2017, her job was to help shape and improve our social mediablog, and web presence. She helped form a creative services team for the department and now manages a team of four (really cool) people.

Creative Services Team meeting over Microsoft Teams as they work from home. Pictured upper left to right: Niki Seligman, Creative Intern and Sara Davis, Creative Content (blogger) Strategist. Pictured lower left to right: Salma Siddick, Sr. Creative Specialist (social media), and Jeanne Clark. Not pictured, Mayumi Thompson, Sr. Creative Graphic Designer

Now, Jeanné carries out essential communications during the pandemic.

Pre-COVID, her commute was the SDOT dream – taking the bus in to work and walking home, living the multimodal life. These days, she wanders over to her sunroom.

This month, we’re highlighting SDOT employees who identify as Asian Pacific American (APA). 

Pictured left to right: Jeanné’s grandma YonJu, her dad Stanley, her mom Eudora (she calls ‘Oma’, mommy in Korean), and grandma Kyong

Jeanné’s parents immigrated to the US from Korea.

Both her parents are of Scandinavian and Asian decent. Her dad is half Norwegian and half Korean and her mom is half Danish and half Korean. Her parents were born during the Korean War and experienced public discrimination and cruelty during the 1950s and 1960s for being mixed race. 

“I often think my family’s stories would make for a great film. Maybe it’d be a part two of The Joy Luck Club story or something. There’s been heaps of hardship but also heaps of love and hope.”

She has watched her world shift dramatically with the coronavirus in Seattle.

A mom to an elementary-aged son who has been thrown into remote learning and removed from friends, Jeanné has had to do the juggling act that many across America now find themselves doing – being a mom, a teacher, and a coworker, all at once. She’s also the closest to her mom Eudora (67), and grandma Kyong (90) and doing what she can to care for them at a distance, including helping her mom who has limited English, apply for unemployment.

“The heart desires to be at my best for work, but also give my best to my 8-year-old son who needs his mom during one of the toughest seasons of our lives.”

Moments of work and home life that have blended together in awkward fashions have been going viral on the internet (see a golden retriever joining his owner’s live weather update) – Jeanné can relate. During a video conferencing call, her son accidentally called 911 and ran over in distress. In super-mom fashion, she calmed him down, assured the operator over the phone that everyone was okay, and seamlessly carried on running the meeting. 

Jeanné’s son, Abram, with his home-school setup

It hasn’t been easy, but there have been good moments too: looking up from her video calls to see her son learning measurements right across the table, listening to the Into the Spider-verse soundtrack while cooking gourmet meals, and taking advantage of the Stay Healthy Street right outside her door.  

Yep, that’s right – her family live along the Central District Stay Healthy Street, which is a pretty convenient place for someone in charge of communications to be. 

“When I’m not jogging on it, I’m the weird lady in the CD taking pics of everyone using it so we can have visuals for communications.”

For Jeanné, the Stay Healthy Street in the Central District brings personal significance.

As a community member, she advocated for her Central District street to become a Neighborhood Greenway years back. She also created the Facebook group, Central District Moms, in 2013 to connect families in the neighborhood. 

During the COVID-19 epidemic, the page has created a virtual space for families to support one another from schooling tips and resources.

This included physical-distancing neighborhood ‘bear hunts’ where the little ones can go for a scavenger hunt activity to find stuffed a teddy bear in neighborhood windows.

Jeanné and her family riding bikes on the Central District Stay Healthy Street.

So while Jeanné’s world has shifted, and her duties in carrying out essential communications related to the pandemic have brought on new responsibilities, she is a master at creating community and connection, something that is important now more than ever. 

When things start to settle, Jeanné is looking forward to seeing her oma, grandma, sisters, and closest friends, hit up the local Goodwill, and rebook her vacations (hello, Park City!).

Thanks for all you do here at the city Jeanné, we’re glad you’re on a mission with us.   

For the first blog in this series, see our feature on Dongho Chang, City Traffic Engineer.