From the time he joined King County in 1983, Harold Taniguchi has always made it a point to surround himself with leaders dedicated to excellence — and in particular with professional women who, in his words, felt “free to speak their minds and were not intimidated by anyone else’s position.”
Over his expansive 35-year career, Taniguchi has built a reputation as a leader who supports the professional development of his employees and advances people based on merit and talent. As director of the King County Department of Transportation, he has created a work culture that fosters inclusion, one where women now hold nearly one-third of the leadership positions at KCDOT.
This work culture, and his years of “walking the talk,” were recently acknowledged by the KCDOT employees who nominated him to receive the Honorable Ray LaHood (Man of the Year) Award from the Puget Sound Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar. The chapter presented Taniguchi with that honor at a recent awards gala at the Westin Hotel in Seattle.
According to the award nomination, Harold is “a ‘servant leader,’ one who consistently cultivates a workplace that supports and empowers all employees. His trademark sense of humor, often self-deprecating, makes him approachable and accessible. His open-door policy and easygoing style forming constructive, lasting relationships, help reinforce that impression.”
Deputy Executive for Operations Rhonda Berry praised Harold for including mentoring goals in his performance standards. “In general, Harold wants people to be the best they can be, and he’s willing to do what he can to help them reach their dreams,” she said. In the male-dominated field of transportation, Harold has mentored at least 18 women at King County in a variety of departments, and helped them develop action plans for career success. Among them are women he’s named to key posts in his own department:
- Linda Dougherty – first appointed by Harold in 1997 to Road Services Assistant Manager and later promoted to DOT Roads Division Director in 2000
- Mary Peterson – appointed DOT deputy director in 2002
- Laurie Brown – appointed DOT deputy director in 2005
- Mary Jo Briggs – appointed fleet division director in 2008
- Jennifer Lindwall – appointed fleet division director in 2009
- Paulette Norman – appointed road services director in 2011
- Brenda Bauer – appointed road services director in 2012
“I have been surrounded in my career by a supportive system of family, friends, and co-workers, so it’s hard to mess up,” said Taniguchi in accepting the award. “For the guys in the room, we’ve got work to do. Let’s keep supporting others.”
At the end of this year, Taniguchi will conclude 16 years in service to the County as DOT Director, as he leads the transition to a proposed new department dedicated to enhancing services for residents of the County’s unincorporated areas.