Choose 180 selects Nneka Payne as new executive director

King County nonprofit advocates to transform juvenile and criminal legal systems

Nneka Payne. COURTESY PHOTO, Choose 180

Nneka Payne. COURTESY PHOTO, Choose 180

Nneka Payne, former deputy chief operating officer for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, is the new executive director of Choose 180.

Choose 180 is a nonprofit, based in Burien, that advocates to transform juvenile and criminal legal systems while supporting impacted young people through restorative diversion and prevention programs.

“We serve all of King County and surrounding areas, with many participants in South King County,” said a Choose 180 spokesperson in a Jan. 5 email when asked about programs in Kent, Renton, Federal Way and Auburn.

A relationship-focused and mission-driven leader, Payne has a dynamic background spanning a decade across community-based organizations, human services and the legal system, according to a Jan. 5 Choose 180 press release. Given her firsthand experiences with the King County juvenile legal system, Choose 180’s mission is deeply personal for her. Through her career as a paralegal, she witnessed how the strain between systems, processes and people created significant gaps and limited opportunities.

Payne has held diverse leadership positions, most recently as the inaugural deputy chief operating officer for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. Throughout her career, Payne has consistently prioritized cultivating stakeholder engagement, enhancing program services and fostering collaborative accountability to create a brighter, more equitable future for King County youth.

“Being part of Choose 180’s transformative journey in system reform and community accountability is a humbling opportunity,” Payne said. “I’m excited about the endless possibilities we can offer to young people, shaping a more equitable future for our next generation.”

Payne’s selection marks the conclusion of an extensive executive search process. A committee consisting of Choose 180 staff and members of the board of directors collaborated with diversity recruiters on the search.

“The Board of Directors is thrilled that Nneka Payne has accepted this position,” said Kia Franklin, board chair. “She brings a unique blend of values-alignment, compelling leadership and subject matter expertise, and a passionate commitment to Choose 180’s mission and vision.”

Tascha R. Johnson, Choose 180’s interim executive director since the early 2023 departure of former Executive Director Sean Goode, will continue to serve the organization in her role as associate executive director.

Choose 180 aims to transform systems of injustice and support the youth and young adults impacted by those systems, according to its mission statement. It envisions a future where youthful behavior is decriminalized and young people are offered restorative practices in lieu of traditional prosecution. In place of the school-to-prison pipeline, a community will exist to help young people realize their potential and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their goals.

Choose 180 began in 2011 as a community-centered effort in partnership with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to impact racial disproportionality, keep youth out of the juvenile criminal legal system and break the school-to-prison pipeline.

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