Roadside Chat with Michele Domingo, Manager of the Office of Equity and Economic Inclusion

5 min. read

An immigration attorney, an artist, and an SDOT manager walk into a room – and, oh wait, they’re the same person? 

Michele Domingo does it all. Alongside being a practicing immigration attorney, she’s the Manager of the Office of Equity and Economic Inclusion at SDOT. And my gosh, are we lucky to have her working at the City. 

Michele’s pup, Zui Ziggy (named after ancient Greek for ‘Zeus’, and Ziggy, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust)

Michele answered my phone call in a truly iconic fashion – sitting on her couch with a nine-month old mini-Australian labradoodle on her lap. After walking through the best local spots to get a pup in town (crucial information, really), we dove into her life. Michele spoke with such energy, recounting a story full of life and guided by good, important work. 

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

Michele is Filipino American and the daughter of immigrants. Her father came from Manila and her mother from the Bicol region of the Philippines. Growing up, her parents were incredibly proud of their heritage, and made sure that their culture was incorporated into Michele’s world. 

“Jeepney Ride” by Michele C. Domingo from her Balikbayan project, now part of 4Culture and King County Public Art Collection, purchased in 2018. Balikbayan means a Filipino visiting or returning to the Philippines after a period of living in another country.

“They never wanted us to forget who we are, where we come from and who our people were.”

Michele’s son creating art during distance learning at home with his mom as his art teacher

She has learned and listened her entire life, holding her heritage close.

Michele’s father’s name Bayani translates to “hero”, and she thinks that’s pretty fitting. Her grandfather was a bridge engineer and architect, and she’s proud to work for a department related to her grandparent’s profession. For Michele, these things are all connected – and important. 

Michele’s father created the first Filipino American school in Michigan, where she would spend her Saturdays growing up.

“Saturdays – that was community for me. We would learn our language, books, songs, dancing, and being in community. It was beautiful, because it wasn’t work.”

Now, Michele finds community in Seattle. 

Her go-to spot is Hood Famous Bakeshop, a Filipino-American business in the Chinatown-International District, which she describes as an informal Filipino-American diaspora and community center. 

Hood Famous has since shifted its business model to take-out and delivery, and Michele cannot recommend the ube cheesecake and cookies enough. And if you want a second opinion, trust Vice, who ran a feature on the bakeshop. If you’re looking for some coffee to go with those treats, Michele recommends Tougo on First Hill, one of the few POC-owned coffee shops in Seattle.

Screen capture of Tougo Coffee’s website

We didn’t just talk treats and coffee. We also discussed Michele’s current role at SDOT.

Michele and her son practicing COVID safety protocals

Michele was driven to join SDOT a year ago. She had long been inspired by the innovative work the City has carried out with diversity and inclusion.

One innovation that Michele was inspired by is the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, which works to eliminate institutional racism as part of the City-wide initiative to eliminate racial disparities and achieve racial equity in Seattle. 

In her current role, Michele serves as the lead in coordinating, managing and delivering all equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives at SDOT. Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis in Seattle, the foundations of Michele’s job are the same, but now she is focused on making sure that our response to the crisis is one that is equitable.

“The situation is so fast moving that if we’re not conscious of how we might be negatively impacting communities, then we’re not serving our communities at all.”

And somehow, alongside the crucial work Michele carries out, she finds time for art, music, and being a mom.

“TV Dressing” by Michele C. Domingo from her Balikbayan project, now part of The City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s permanent collection of art work program: Fresh Perspectives, purchased in 2018. Balikbayan means a Filipino visiting or returning to the Philippines after a period of living in another country.

Thanks for being on a mission with us, Michele. We’re glad you’re here. 

This is the third blog in a series celebrating the stories of SDOT staff for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. See our features on Dongho Chang and Jeanné Clark.