May 2013 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Rod Dembowski

Born To Serve

By Joanna Plichta Boisen


For a kid who once dreamt about being a firefighter, Rod Dembowski's appointment to the King County Council isn't a far stretch. While he's not putting out residential flames, he is busy tending to burning issues revolving around infrastructure, transportation, human and social services, and the economy as the newest councilmember from the 1st District.

After being appointed on February 11 to replace Bob Ferguson, Dembowski immersed himself in his new role. In the last few weeks, he has met with Kenmore Mayor David Baker on city-county issues (including parks, transportation and flooding concerns); conferred with Sheriff John Urquhart on public safety; collaborated with the Marine Unit to work on boater safety legislation; strategized with the Shoreline City Council on making city-county partnerships work; learned about how to help International Community Health Services succeed with its new Shoreline clinic; discussed regional transit and economic development with Redmond Mayor John Marchione; and visited countless homes doorbelling. And that is just one month.

Dembowski is no stranger to hard work and overcoming adversity. He and his brother were raised in a single-parent household by their father, Al Dembowski, a Korean War veteran and small-business owner. During Dembowski's childhood, the family's household income was well below poverty levels, and they often struggled to make ends meet. To help out, Dembowski sold socks at local swap meets with his father and worked summers unloading wheat trucks at a country grain elevator. Later in high school, Dembowski started his own small business selling ice cream at local fairs.

Work ethic was only one part of what his father instilled in him; the other big piece was Dembowski's love for politics. "The first time I ever stayed up past midnight was to see President Jimmy Carter, who was on a 50-state tour," said Dembowski, whose father took his boys to Boeing Field in 1980 to see the iconic president arrive. "Over the course of my childhood I also got to see Vice President George Bush and various other politicians," he said. "It was incredible and very formative."

It is no wonder then that his father was in the front row to see his son appointed to political office in a unanimous vote. During the swearing-in ceremony, Al Dembowski beamed with pride.

To help pay tuition at Georgetown University, Dembowski worked part time in the U.S. Senate as a staff assistant, worked as a clerk for a local hardware store, won a scholarship to intern at the Japanese American Citizens League, and interned at the White House. During summers when he was not in school, Dembowski worked in the family business.

After graduating from Georgetown, Dembowski returned to Seattle and worked as a policy analyst for the King County Executive's Office where he worked on a broad range of county issues, including land use, zoning, budget development, and boards and commissions recruitment and staffing, just to name a few. He put his business school training to work as a marketing and operations and credit analyst for PACCAR Financial where he analyzed financial statements and operations data for the maker of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks.

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