Zenovia Harris, CEO of the Kent Chamber of Commerce, recently received the 2023 Larry Gossett Service Award for her leadership and commitment to social justice.
Harris, a long-time leader in South King County has been a leader in her field ensuring the Kent Chamber’s mission, vision, and values lead with equity, according to a news release from King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. She has diversified board member participation, introduced a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and instituted equity talks open to chamber members as well as the public.
“I’ve worked with Zenovia for many years so it was an easy decision to nominate her for the Larry Gossett Service Award given all the work she has undertaken to advance the principles of equity in her work,” said Upthegrove, who represents South King County, including parts of Kent. “Her commitment to social justice and leading with equity has benefited not only the Kent Chamber, but also the broader South King County community.”
The Larry Gossett Service Award recognizes and affirms an individual or organization who has made significant contributions in the areas of racial equity, social justice, and/or human rights. The award is presented annually at the King County, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which was earlier this month.
The planning committee for King County’s MLK Day celebration, along with the King County employee African-American affinity group, select one individual in the county each year who has embodied the service and legacy of my Gossett, a civil rights pioneer in the region, and a transformational change agent, Upthegrove said. Gossett is a former King County Council member.
In 2019, Harris became the first Black CEO of the Kent Chamber in its 70-plus years. She previously worked nearly nine years for the University of Phoenix-Western Washington – the first five years as an advocate for students in an enrollment advisor’s role, the last four as an operations manager, a liaison who provides resources and answers for students and administration.
“Earning the distinguished award is a message to me that I am not alone,” Harris wrote on seattlemedium.com. “An honor such as this is shared with the community I serve on a daily basis. The award for me solidifies that when we are focused on true equity and not just in search of recognition, others find value in our service.”
Harris replaced Andrea Keikkala as chamber CEO. Keikkala led the chamber for 10 years.
“This award is a symbol for the significance of my community service and various challenging lived experiences that play into recognizing economic inequalities and having the courage to provide solutions and opportunities,” wrote Harris, who grew up in Sacramento, California, moved to Washington state in 1999 and lived in Renton before moving to Kent. “I share this award with my allies, my supporters and young leaders who see my being the only Black CEO for a chamber in Washington state as an inspiration that leads to change.”
Harris said she beyond honored to be the recipient of the award. She said she has a passion for serving the underserved.
“I accepted this award in the name of economic equality, economic access, and equal distribution of resources for the purpose of economic vitality for all,” she said.
Harris is the second consecutive winner of the award from Kent. Kendrick Glover, executive director of Glover Empower Mentoring (GEM) in Kent, received the 2022 Larry Gossett Service Award for his work with youth.