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McDermott awards Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service to Sili Savusa

June 13, 2023

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott on Tuesday awarded Sili Savusa with the Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service, an award that recognizes individuals whose work has answered the question asked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “What are you doing for others?”

Savusa is the Executive Director of the White Center Community Development Association, and has made a lifelong commitment to selflessly help, uplift, support and promote her community. 

“Sili Savusa has been a force for positive change and community her entire life, and we’ve been so fortunate to have her bringing that skill and passion to White Center over the last decade,” said McDermott. “Sili’s impact in White Center has been undeniable – with thousands of families uplifted, businesses supported, and organizations buoyed by her leadership and friendship. I’m honored to call her a friend and inspiration, and am excited to see her continued success as she steps forward to make an impact on the entire state of Washington.”

Savusa learned from childhood the power and importance of community. Her father, a Samoan Matais (chief), helped found the Samoan National Chief’s Council in the 1980s, and then started the chief’s council in Seattle as well. In her childhood home, her father brought people in for community meetings, ceremonies, organizing. 

As an adult, Savusa has carried on that tradition. She established the first Samoan Pacific Islander Parent Teacher Student Association in the nation, successfully managed the multi-million-dollar Making Connections community change initiative for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and became the first woman of color elected to the Highline School Board. She previously served as the Family Center Coordinator for Southwest Youth and Family Services.

For more than 20 years, Savusa has also worked with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, working to bring people together to establish relationships based on trust. 

Sili, a longtime resident of White Center, has built a reputation as one of the most successful and prominent Samoan community leaders in the Northwest, and works each day to help uplift, support and promote her community and its needs.

This marks the eighth year that councilmembers have each selected someone from their district whose work embodies the spirit of King’s question.