Last month, we announced the winners of the first quarterly West Seattle Community Recognition Awards, a new way to honor West Seattleites working to make a difference — the brainchild of Julie Mireille Anderson from Divina, with the nominating process open to everyone in West Seattle. As we open the next round of nominations, we are profiling the first three winners — people you may or may not have heard about or met, people whose hard work makes West Seattle a better place. Thursday, we told you about Cindi Barker from the Morgan Community Association (meet Cindi here); Friday, Larry Carpenter from the Alki Community Council and Southwest Seattle Historical Society (meet Larry here); and today, we profile Fairmount Springs community organizer Paul Sureddin, who also is webmaster for FS and MoCA:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Fairmount Springs neighborhood – mostly west of Fauntleroy and south of Fairmount Park, northeast of Morgan Junction – has a website. But it doesn’t truly tell the story of how dozens of Fairmount Springs neighbors are communicating online.
Paul Sureddin can tell that story. He set up the website as an offshoot of the Fairmount Springs neighborhood mailing list that he keeps. It’s faster than door-knocking (though he does a lot of that too).
“Somebody sees a suspicious stranger in the neighborhood, they send word of it to the list, immediately 75 people know about it,” he says. “The list is where all the action happens.” Paul also tells the tale of an elderly neighbor who he checks on often, just as that neighbor checks on those who live near him: “He walks around the neighborhood, keeps an eye on things.” And he says that checking on people is more pleasure than business: “I enjoy talking to people.”
Paul moved to West Seattle in 2001 — “it was time to become a homeowner.” He’s originally from San Antonio, Texas, where he lived till age 21; after some subsequent time in Dallas, working in the defense industry, he came to Western Washington in 1997, where he now works in information tech.
“I lived for a year on the Eastside,” he says, quickly making it clear that it wasn’t a good fit. Then he tried apartment life in Fremont for a few years. It wasn’t long after his arrival in West Seattle that he jumped into neighborhood volunteering: “I saw an ad that the Morgan Community Association was looking for a web person. I really like to get things done.”
This is a point he repeats during our conversation, with great energy and enthusiasm: “I really like to get things done.”
He feels he manages to achieves that despite working outside the traditional framework of a formal community council or association. Fairmount Springs neighbors are organized, but without an official group, or meetings, or votes, or officers. They talk, and they take action when necessary. Paul still maintains the Morgan website — look at it and the one for FS, and you’ll notice the similarities — but the bulk of his work, offline as well as online, is for the neighborhood where he lives.
It appears they have a level of trust and connectedness that other neighborhoods would envy: Paul keeps a community directory in which neighbors can participate if they choose, with emergency phone numbers and other vital information.
To Paul, it’s a practical matter — building support networks for himself as well as the neighborhood. “If I was having trouble, I’d like the neighbors to be able to help me (too).”
The community involvement is about fun as well as practicality. Perhaps the most visible face of Fairmount Springs is the traffic-island triangle along Fauntleroy, known semi-fondly, semi-ruefully as “Weed Island.”
It’s a lot less weedy these days, thanks to neighborhood efforts. And at holiday times, it becomes festive — we’ve shown its Halloween decorations (link here) and Christmas decorations (link here) in just the past few months.
As we talked, in fact, Paul was mulling whether Valentine’s decorations would go up. He was considering skipping that holiday — till a neighbor asked him, “Hey, Paul, where’s the Valentine’s stuff?”
He has grander dreams for “Weed Island” beyond the holiday decorations; some sort of big art piece, perhaps, though he is quick to add that he would hope it could be “guerrilla art,” not something resulting from some kind of official process: “Something that just says, ‘hey! this is our neighborhood!'”
That is to say, a neighborhood with a few quirks, like the chickens Paul and at least one other neighbor keep in their backyards. His mate, he says, would love to have goats, too — they have some blackberry growth requiring landscaping vigilance — but Paul keeps telling her that might be overkill.
Much as he might want to keep those blackberry vines away, you can tell Paul is more into creation than destruction. And innovation — like the time he and others helped a neighbor with a power problem by stringing cords till the neighbor was no longer “unplugged.”
That effort was emblematic to Paul’s efforts to get Fairmount Springs neighbors “plugged in” to community happenings and concerns. It’s his paramount concern, even though nobody elected or appointed him, and it’s a role he could relinquish at any time, though it’s obvious he wouldn’t want to, as he says it again: “I like to get things done.”
Nominations are open now for the second-quarter West Seattle Community Recognition Awards — deadline is March 31st, but why not nominate someone now, while you’re thinking about it? Three people will be honored each quarter. Forms are available at Divina (California/Genesee) and other participating businesses, or you can download it here (it’s a Word doc so you can use “replace” and type the info “inline”), and e-mail the completed form to us at firstname.lastname@example.org; explanatory info is here. Then mark your calendar for the informal gathering at which we’ll announce the winners (here’s WSB coverage of the first event, last month), tentatively set for April 18.