When the King County Council took on the responsibilities of Metro, a transit and sewage agency, in 1994 it decided to expand its representatives. The council, formerly nine members, grew to 13—creating four new districts, including Region 10 around the Central District and South Seattle.
Larry Gossett, ’71, then the 14-year executive director of Seattle’s Central Area Motivation Program, saw an opportunity: becoming Region 10’s first—and it now appears last—representative.
Last November King County voters approved Initiative 18, returning the council back to nine members and merging Region 10 into a new, larger Region 2. While proponents say returning to the original size will help ease budgetary issues, Gossett points out that it will also mean less citizen representation and an increased workload for representatives.
But Gossett is no stranger to challenges. During his time on campus Gossett co-founded the UW’s Black Student Union (BSU). “I will never forget that day,” Gossett says of Jan. 6, 1968. “A group of 13 students gathered at the HUB and announced that we had just formed the Black Student Union. That we would have an impact on this institutionally racist environment.”
The BSU quickly gained attention with what Gossett now admits to be rather radical tactics, culminating in a May 20, 1968, sit-in at then-President Charles Odegaard’s office. After four and a half hours of negotiation, they came to an agreement.
“In our opinion the [UW] was more than 100 years old and there should be some reflection of [minority] existence,” Gossett says. “All we saw was minority people reflected in the janitorial and cooking staff.”
The BSU made five demands of the University. Today the results of those demands are seen across campus; the Ethnic Cultural Center stands on the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and 39th Street, students can minor in African American studies and the Seattle campus has five times more minority students and staff members than it did when Gossett enrolled. In addition, there is an Educational Opportunity Program, a Minority Academic Support System and under Odegaard’s recommendation, an Office of Minority Affairs.
This fall Gossett will be running in his fifth election – this time for Region 2 which runs north to N.E. 75 Street and south beyond Rainier Beach. But Gossett is not worried about re-election. His activism has created a name for him in the U District and throughout the very diverse region he hopes to represent.
Neither is he worried about the council’s ability to govern. “You’ve got to deal with the hand you’re given,” Gossett says. “We’ll keep the government running.”