Dow Constantine — a man committed to service
By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Dow Constantine is not a very good DJ name,” admitted the former college radio DJ and newly elected King County Executive. Instead of spinning records, Constantine chose a different path in order to serve the public. Constantine defeated Susan Hutchinson on Nov. 3 to become King County Executive.
Born and raised in West Seattle, Constantine grew up with an interest in education. This was due in part to his upbringing as Constantine’s parents were teachers.
“I was always interested in news and current events as well as having a sense of community service from my parents’ influence [and] my time as a scout.” Constantine is an Eagle Scout, the highest rank of the Boy Scouts of America. Constantine participated in many service projects at school and with the Scouts.
At West Seattle High School, he was the president of the student body.
“West Seattle was an interesting place to grow up. It was not diverse, but it had a strong and historic Asian Pacific Islander population,” recalled Constantine. He recounts growing up with classmates of Japanese and Chinese ancestry.
Life as a Husky
After graduating high school in 1980, Constantine attended the University of Washington. “I never really applied anywhere else,” Constantine said. “From a very early age, I wanted to be a husky.” He is from a long line of huskies in his families.
Constantine majored in political science. In the early 1980s, he dabbled as a disc jockey for the campus radio station, KCMU (now KEXP). Constantine began by volunteering at the radio station until he was offered a shift. “I started off with the 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. slot,” Constantine said, laughing. He eventually worked his way to a popular Friday afternoon slot. “I had a lot of fun, and it was one of the best times in college,” said Constantine.
Not only did Constantine play music, he met fellow student and longtime girlfriend Shirley Carlson. Carlson, who is half Japanese, was a disc jockey and the music director at KCMU.
After graduating in 1985, Constantine went to law school at the University of Washington. Upon completion of his law degree in 1990, Constantine received a master’s degree in urban planning. “I wanted to broaden my education and broaden my horizons,” Constantine said. “I have always been interested in the development of the city and [the master’s program] gave me the chance to study it more closely.”
In 1992, Constantine began practicing law after receiving his master’s degree. He specialized in small businesses, land use, and real estate matters. “I found the best part of practicing was helping to take a [client’s] idea and make it a reality,” said Constantine. In 1996, Constantine began working on an open space preservation project in West Seattle. The main issue was protecting a wooded ravine from development, which was near his childhood home. During this time, he met Charlie Chong, a longtime Seattle political activist and fellow West Seattle resident. He became more involved with the Democratic Party, which led to Constantine running and winning a seat as a state representative in 1996.
Constantine was re-elected as a state representative in 1998 and became a state senator in 2000.
In 2002, Constantine was appointed to the King County Council where he served until his election for the vacant King County Executive position this year.
Through his political career, Constantine has kept great contacts with diverse ethnic communities. “It’s critical to directly address and be engaged with ethnic communities across the county,” said Constantine.
“He has a sincere sense of civic responsibility,” said Hyeok Kim, executive director of the InterIm Community Development Association. As a member of the King County Council in 2007, Constantine contacted Kim to request her help in reaching out to leaders within the International District. Redistricting of King County gave Constantine the opportunity to serve the International District as its representative on the King County Council, and in an effort to reach out to the community, he sought Kim’s assistance.
“He has a deeper relationship with the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Community because he took his responsibility very seriously,” stated Kim.
Constantine recently added Kim to his transition team after winning the election.
This dedication to the API community is why Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation is honoring him as one of their Top Contributors to the Asian Community at a dinner on Dec. 4.
Constantine and Carlson purchased a home in West Seattle near his childhood residence where Constantine’s parents live. “We can walk over for Sunday dinner,” Constantine said.
Although the campaign and transitioning into his new position have taken up most of his time, Constantine and Carlson still hold on to their musical roots. They enjoy attending the opera as well as attending rock shows at local clubs. “The good thing about being my age is that I can go home before the show is over,” Constantine joked. “I don’t have to be cool anymore.” ♦