This week’s editions of Daily Biz Briefs will highlight five remarkable Women of Influence in the South Sound who will be honored in a public recognition celebration on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

Mary Pontarolo, executive director of Olympia’s SafePlace and a 2014 “Woman of Influence,” has been engaged in the domestic and sexual violence field for 33 years.

But it wasn’t her first professional work. She began as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, and it was her work alongside Native American women in Okanogan County that sparked an interest in civil rights, social justice and equality. 

What followed can largely be seen as an outline for public conversation and policy change dedicated to the prevention and elimination of sexual and domestic violence, and serving survivors of both. Pontarolo helped create Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence and served 10 years as executive director. A dozen years ago, she moved to SafePlace, which is still the only agency in Washington that provides state certified and accredited community empowerment education training of these topics for Spanish speakers in their own language.

Pontarolo says the smartest thing she has ever done, next to marrying her partner/wife Nancy Reid 32 years ago, is adopting an infant daughter, Maia, in China in 1999. Family also figures into her role model: her 89-year-old mother Alice, who is a survivor of sexual and domestic violence.

As for the future, she says motivation comes to her from “the brilliance of upcoming young leaders, and by disenfranchised people and their enthusiasm to improve the world.” That would be something she is doing every day herself.

Mary Pontarolo will receive her 2014 recognition as a Woman of Influence on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Also to be honored are Lois Bernstein, senior VP of MultiCare Health System and Lifetime Achievement Woman of Influence; Rosie Martinson, creator of the blog, named the Rising Star; and four other individual Women of Influence:

  • Jean Carr, principal of SCJ Alliance, Olympia
  • Robin Lucas, founder/CEO of ShowCase Media & Showcase Magazine, Edgewood
  • Denise McCluskey, mayor of University Place & regional manager, Milburn Academy, JBLM 
  • Julie Tappero, founder/CEO of West Sound Workforce, Gig Harbor

For more information on Women of Influence and tickets to the event, visit