Puyallup native Bryan Ruff had the misfortune to graduate from college in 2008, right into the teeth of the Great Recession, and he accepted a three-hour daily commute to become a bank teller in Seattle. Job promotions did come, but two years later he was glad to get off the road and jump into a couple Pierce County non-profits that help adults with developmental disabilities.
Today, he is happily back in banking as branch manager of a bank on South Hill, earning plaudits from his managers and co-workers, as well as recognition in 2017 “40 Under Forty.” He is also active with Puyallup Rotary, the local Salvation Army board and leading the volunteer board for Trillium Employment Services, a non-profit that serves willing workers with challenges.
“I am most passionate about my growing family and my community,” Ruff says. “Jobs, cars, hobbies and houses will come and go throughout life (but) the things that we will always have are our families and communities.”
Liz Kaster is another of the “recession graduates,” though she did find a dream job upon graduation in 2009, only to lose it in the economically bleak years thereafter. Building active ways for residents to get around kept her on the roll intermittently in planning for City of Tacoma almost six years, until she elected to pursue a graduate degree in urban and regional planning.
Upon her return from Portland, Liz joined Puyallup Watershed Initiative as the leader of its Active Transportation Community of Interest. Here, she coordinates more than 20 non-profits, businesses and government agencies that are all headed in the same direction as it relates to the 1,000 square-miles between Mount Rainier and Commencement Bay.
“We build community and political support for active transportation (think bikes, hikes, etc.) and champion infrastructure projects,” Kaster says. “Our third strategy is to build an inclusive active transportation culture. We are grassroots and complicated. It’s collaborative and messy, and I love it.”
Kaster is also so good at it, that she’s earned her place on 2017 “40 Under Forty” honorees list.
Mandy McGill explains that she started a career later because she had children early in life. After earning a business degree at 32, she opened Inspire Consulting, not knowing exactly what it would become. As it turned out, she was a cracker-jack construction recruiter in a Seattle marketplace that was hungry for building craftspersons.
Last year, Mandy realized that Tacoma could use some of the energy she felt up north, so along with others sharing that view created a group called Revive Downtown.
“Businesses today are searching for an energy-centric urban neighborhood. Millennials choose where they work based on the walkability and feel of a neighborhood,” McGill explains. “Revive Downtown exists to create that atmosphere.”
Mandy McGill has also added a real estate credential so she can help arrivals find their homes in Tacoma. And she is finding that she enjoys moving her business forward so long as “it is an adventure and there is a problem to solve.”
Meet Bryan, Liz and Mandy, plus 37 other remarkable members of 2017’s 40 Under Forty cohort at the celebration of their honors on Wednesday, October 11, at Foss Waterway Seaport in downtown Tacoma. It begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and the recognition program will conclude before 8 o’clock. Tickets are available at this link.