A letter from Christopher Shainin, Cascade’s Interim Executive Director
Christopher Shainin and his son wearing masks while out on tandem bikes.

Hello, Cascade members, volunteers, riders, advocates, and community. My name is Christopher Shainin and I would like to introduce myself to you as Cascade’s new Interim Executive Director. 

I would first like to acknowledge Richard Smith’s leadership. I have really enjoyed working for him and appreciate the thoughtfulness and consideration that he has brought to issues. He and I met frequently over the transition period. I plan to take advantage of his kind offer to advise in the future as his time and interest allow.

I want to begin speaking about myself by sharing how impactful cycling has been in my life and my family’s life. After a long stint at a non-profit during the recession, I needed to recharge and change bad habits. When my son was born, I made a commitment to regularly exercise with him. I purchased a bike and trailer. The two of us regularly rode from our home in North Seattle to Seattle Center, Greenlake, and downtown. Ten years later, we purchased a tandem bike from Cascade to ride on for errands. My son is currently skittish about riding on his own, so my wife and I see the tandem as a gateway for his eventual biking independence. I am grateful to have this experience to share with him.

To add more about my wife, she is the Medical Director of a local hospice who also is a composer, soprano, and violinist in her spare time. She has been involved in the CDC’s engagement with her hopsital during the first weeks of the COVID-19 response. Through her I have received a basic understanding of the impact of the pandemic on our health care system.

Back to how I got to Cascade: in my past career, I typically had long commutes of 1.5 - 2 hours each way. I wanted a job I could cycle to, and fortunately found the Technology Manager job at Cascade. I have enjoyed commuting to work by bike, and look forward to doing so again.

Before my transition to a focus on technology, I led nonprofits as Executive Director or General Manager for over 22 years. I managed 50th anniversaries, historic and challenged facilities, and a capital campaign. I led an organization as president to merge a 501c3 and 501c4 and became conversant in the legal and reporting requirements involved, which will help with leading both Cascade and our sister organization, Washington Bikes.

I co-founded an orchestra and hosted over a hundred presentations in an artist series. I created a curatorial development program, partnering with the UW Museology department, and created an exhibition program centered on climate change that brought together scientists, artists, educators, and environmental organizations to change public opinion. I have programmed performance series, managed education programs, led board recruitment, and launched rebranding efforts.

I have engaged numerous consultants on fundraising and organizational development, and even worked for a nascent consulting firm that eventually failed.

I have served as board president for three boards. I am currently the Governance chair for Inspire Washington, the statewide advocate for arts, science, and heritage, where I serve on the board with the leaders of the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Art Museum, Woodland Park Zoo, Pacific Science Center, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Aquarium, and ArtsFund, among others.

I am a graduate of the Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders at Stanford University, Leadership Skagit, and Leadership Tomorrow. I served on the Puget Sound Regional Council Cultural Taskforce, and currently serve on the Advisory Board of Creative Exchange at Washington Filmworks. During the last recession I was an Arts in Crisis mentor and was assigned by the Kennedy Center to advise several non-profits around the country. I recently joined and attended the Interim Executive Directors' Roundtable to better understand the changing nature of the role from leaders around the country and will attend the Seattle Academy in August.

I currently meet in a White Allies group to further racial equity, and have led recruitment efforts for better board representation for several organizations. I am proud that Inspire Washington recently won a legislative victory to ensure that King County's cultural resources will be funded more equitably when our campaign measure is put on the ballot. And I worked with advocates in Indian Country to promote our state's sovereignty curriculum program. I am deeply committed to addressing the inequities of wealth, education, background, and geography, because I have seen how they tear at the web of community, such as where I grew up in the Skagit Valley.

In addition to my doctorate in music composition, I received my non-profit training and strategic planning acumen from the heads of the Kennedy Center, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and San Francisco Ballet. My certifications include Project Management Professional, Professional in Business Analysis, and Certified Fundraising Executive.

My technical certifications include those in Salesforce and Google platforms, as well as in human research. Previous to Cascade, I worked with a team to develop a clinical decision-making tool informed by machine learning. We were in the beginning phase of this project when the team broke up and I took the job at Cascade.

I made the switch to technology because tech provided me the intellectual challenge I was missing and widened my horizons -- and because, frankly, I was burned out.

All of this is to say that I am extremely comfortable with the issues typically affecting nonprofit organizations, and I am familiar with many of the challenges facing Cascade. I think I have gotten right with myself about the commitment involved and can be objective.

I, however, am no expert on Cascade's rides, advocacy, or education programs, and certainly am not imbued with the institutional knowledge of the organization. Nor am I the best or most obvious representative to the community. I will rely on and board and staff leadership in these areas as appropriate, and look forward to the search for a new permanent executive director.

I really believe that we can come together to face the really big uncertainties ahead. But we each need to own the challenge. We will need to trust each other and still disagree by turns in order to forge a sustainable future.

I am grateful for the confidence the Board, Richard, staff, and Cascade community have placed in me and hope to earn it each day.

Sara Kiesler's picture
Sara Kiesler