Executive Director (Puget Soundkeeper Alliance)

  • Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group
  • Seattle, WA, USA
Full Time Nonprofit

Job Description


For 35 years Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (PSA) has been a leader in the fight to restore and protect Puget Sound. PSA has taken on formidable opponents and trends that endanger the ecosystem on which the region’s iconic salmon and orcas, as well as economic prosperity, depend. As the Seattle area population grows and national pollution prevention regulation is weakened, strong advocacy is ever more critical to saving Puget Sound from oil spills, industrial stormwater, agricultural run-off, marine debris, and pharmaceutical waste. PSA patrols and monitors the Sound, hosts clean-ups, promotes best business practices, and enforces pollution permits. 


Today PSA is seeking an Executive Director (ED) to propel the organization into the next generation of protection and recovery of Puget Sound. The new ED will be a visionary consensus builder and an innovative strategist who can engage residents of the Puget Sound, advocates, policymakers, and partners around the crucial work of protecting the Sound. The new ED will also serve as the designated Puget Soundkeeper and act as the lead external-facing clean water advocate for the organization and the face of the organization’s advocacy efforts, spearheading clean water litigation, testifying on legislation and agency rulemaking, as well as speaking and writing as needed on how we can better protect waterways. The ED will oversee efforts to protect more than 16,000 square miles of land and water – from the rocky shores of the San Juan Islands to the mudflats of the South Sound inlets – that form the complex Puget Sound marine estuary system.


The new ED will manage and inspire a talented staff of 12 as they develop new initiatives, advance policy agendas, plan litigation, and increase the visibility of PSA in media and the advocacy community. The ED will also drive PSA’s culture of equity internally and externally and increase engagement between PSA and leaders of color, underserved communities, youth advocates, and tribal representatives. The new ED will engage media outlets to raise public awareness of critical threats to the Sound and ways to help protect it. 


The ideal candidate will be, first and foremost, committed to preserving the Sound from all forms of pollution so that Washingtonians have access to clean water, a safe place for recreation, and a vibrant economy. This person will be a seasoned senior manager with experience leading small to medium-sized organizations. He/she/they will be an innovator, a proven fundraiser, and consensus builder. Internally he/she/they will be a coach, mentor, and a talent developer who models and maintains cooperative workflow. He/she/they will have deep networks and rapport in the science and environmental advocacy communities. To succeed in this role, the new ED will need the passion, focus, creativity, humility, and humor to master the co-equal aspects of this work: executive leadership and environmental advocacy.


This search is being conducted by NPAG. Application instructions can be found at the end of this document.




PSA’s mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound by: monitoring water quality; helping set strong policies and regulations to better protect area waterways; enforcing environmental regulations;  engaging citizens and businesses in waterway cleanup and recovery projects; educating and involving the public in local water pollution issues; and partnering with local and regional groups to advance solutions that protect Puget Sound.


Founded in 1984 as the Puget Sound Alliance, it was the first grassroots group in Washington to focus exclusively on protecting the aquatic environment of Puget Sound and was the first environmental organization to focus on stormwater pollution, which is now recognized as a major conduit for toxic pollution. Initially, the organization fought successfully for secondary wastewater treatment at West Point in Seattle and for a Puget Sound Management Plan. In 1990, following the successful model of the Hudson Riverkeeper, the organization launched the 6th licensed Waterkeeper program in the nation when it hired its first Soundkeeper and began patrolling the waters of the Puget Sound by boat.


Renamed Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (PSA) in 1992, the organization was a founding member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international movement led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the many member programs. Today, Waterkeeper Alliance and its member organizations are the fastest growing water-focused environmental movement in the world with over 340 licensed Waterkeepers and affiliates in 43 countries and on six continents.



PSA prioritizes its work to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound along three lines of action:


  • Policy and Civic EngagementPSA increases meaningful environmental protection by improving policies, regulations, and funding for protecting Puget Sound while building a community voice for clean water. PSA furthers these goals by actively engaging with decision-makers, businesses, government agencies, and Puget Sound communities. PSA submits expert testimony, fosters grassroots action, builds awareness, legally appeals substandard regulations, and fights against environmental rollbacks.  PSA has established national precedents in stormwater regulation and improved water quality standards, including recently securing a federal no discharge zone for boat sewage in Puget Sound and Seattle-area lakes in collaboration with area partners.


  • Stewardship and Education: PSA is committed to stopping pollution at the source and partners with businesses to help reduce pollution and host cleanup and education events to involve community members in caring for Puget Sound. PSA established an award-winning Clean Marina certification program and engages over 2500 volunteers annually in marine debris cleanup and environmental stewardship events.


  • Monitoring and Enforcement: The Soundkeeper actively patrols the waters of Puget Sound every week by boat, kayak, foot and/or airplane to monitor for environmental problems and to detect, document, and report illegal pollution. The Clean Water Act of 1972 grants individuals and communities the power to sue under provisions of the Actto bring egregious polluters into compliance with the law. PSA has an impressive record of success in the over 100 Clean Water Act cases it has filed. On average, PSA’s settlements result in the control of over 120 million gallons of polluted stormwater runoff annually. 


To date, PSA’s enforcement team has awarded over $5.1 million to third-party restoration, education, and water quality mitigation projects to heal the damage in the affected watershed and provide an incentive for future compliance. PSA does not receive any settlement money from Clean Water Act cases except for attorney’s fees.




Developing and sustaining collaborative relationships with the Board, staff, and Partners is key to the success of the next Executive Director. The new Executive Director will be a visionary, willing to take on difficult challenges, and innovate and lead the organization to the next level of accomplishing PSA’s mission. More specifically, the new ED will:


Cultivate, mentor, and lead a dynamic team. The new ED will inspire staff to advance the mission, develop short- and long-term goals, and identify and implement action steps. He/she will model direct and clear interpersonal communication strategies, delegate responsibilities, and support team member growth.


Nurture and Facilitate Board Development and Learning. The ED will support the Board in further development of effective and efficient governing practices. He/she will nurture a board culture that integrates a diverse cohort of members and maximizes individual and collective contributions to the sustainability and impact of the organization.


Increase PSA’s revenue and membership. The new ED will build a financial strategy with short- and long-term fundraising goals. The ED will lead the Board and staff on campaigns to enhance member engagement and capitalizes on the strong support from the residents of the Pacific Northwest for protecting our natural resources in the face of competing priorities for other compelling political and social causes. 


Monitor Puget Sound as Soundkeeper. As a citizen “attorney general” under the Clean Water Act, the Soundkeeper oversees efforts to patrol the waters, enforce discharge permits, coordinate clean-ups, and enlist community partners in advancing policies that will further the recovery of the Sound.


Elevate PSA’s mission and impact through external relationships. The ED will capitalize on PSA’s current credibility and track record to increase public awareness of threats to the Sound. Working with the water conservation community, policy makers, advocates, and others throughout the region, it is critical for PSA to engage in difficult conversations with supporters and “naysayers” to build a consensus on regional initiatives. PSA must also help deepen relationships with emergent leaders and leaders of color, including and especially those from tribal communities, and learn from their experiences in addressing environmental injustice.




The next Executive Director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance should first and foremost be passionate about waterway health, especially that of the Puget Sound. He/she/they will also be a seasoned manager who empowers the staff, partners with the board, and builds robust and trusting external relationships. While no one candidate will meet all of these criteria, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:


  • Experience managing small and/or medium sized teams to transform internal systems and ensure collaborative workflow;
  • Track record of building and sustaining the economic viability of an organization;
  • Success conceiving and implementing strategic, innovative initiatives addressing complex environmental challenges;
  • An entrepreneurial spirit and an inherent curiosity for exploring new project areas and opportunities for growth;
  • Demonstrated experience working in and with diverse communities;
  • Willingness to set measurable goals, experiment and course correct;
  • Ability to inspire Board, staff, and regional partners to take on new challenges in the face of opposition and competing priorities;
  • Ability to integrate diverse perspectives into consensus solutions both within the organization and in the community-at-large;
  • Effective oral and written communication;
  • Familiarity with the technical aspects of ecological protection and ecosystem management;
  • A bachelor’s degree in business, communications, nonprofit management, ecology, or a related field is required; an advanced degree is an added asset.
  • Experience with boats is desirable, but not required.




This search is being conducted by Tamar Datan, Erica Nicole Richardson & Chris Cannon of Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group.

Due to the pace of this search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Please send nominations and/or resumes, including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications to: PSA-ED@nonprofitprofessionals.com


The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is an equal opportunity employer.

Candidates of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


More information about the PSA may be found at: http://www.pugetsoundkeeper.org/



Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group is a national executive search and consulting firm dedicated to serving the mission-driven community. We partner with global mission-driven clients to deliver highly-tailored, innovative, and strategic senior- and executive-level search services.