More than 70,000 residents in parts of Bothell, Kirkland and the entirety of Kenmore recently lost a long-time public servant who quietly helped keep their toilets flushing since 1980.
Northshore Utility District general manager Fanny Yee retired Dec. 21 after more than 37 years in the district. District staff called her a giant in the industry and an important female role model in a male-dominated the field.
“She’s known throughout the state as being one of the strongest financial folks in Washington, especially among special-purpose districts and government agencies,” said incoming general manager Al Nelson.
Yee has been with NUD since its beginning as a voter-approved merger in 1980 between the Northeast Lake Washington Sewer District and King County Water District No. 79. According to several staff members, she’s consistently been an integral part of district operations.
“She turned into this really dynamic leader who’s really effective at getting things done,” Nelson said. “She took the organization from having trouble paying its bills to a very financially healthy and responsible organization.”
District staff said they see Yee as an inspiration, especially women staff working at the district.
“I have been very proud to work for such a smart and capable woman,” said Thema Crenshaw, a permit technician. “I think that (she’s) an inspiration for all girls everywhere to achieve really great things.”
Teresa Tookey, an IT specialist, had always worked for men before Yee and was always impressed with the other woman’s honesty and wisdom.
“I remember walking out of her office many times thinking how inspirational she is for women in this field,” Tookey said. “It’s just been really nice to have a female who I think works extremely well with everybody.”
Nelson said staff are nervous to lose Yee’s knowledge, negotiation skills and leadership.
“Every manager likes to think they’re straightforward, but she’s basically between the eyes,” he said with a laugh. “Her financial background and strength will definitely be missed here.”
Yee is confident Nelson will serve the district well despite any concerns about her departure.
“I thought I’m a hard worker and he works harder than me,” she said with a laugh. “What impressed me the most is his attitude about his job. He loves taking care of the public.”
Yee first started at NUD as an accountant after moving to the states from Hong Kong. Her husband found a job at The Boeing Company, which initially led her to the Puget Sound region.
“I had two choices,” she said, “get a new husband or relocate to the Pacific Northwest for a new job.”
Yee secured a job with an enticing real estate investment job, but ended up working as an accountant for a small water and sewer district.
“That turned out to be the best decision I made,” she said.
The investment firm offered Yee a larger salary, but her ideas would’ve never seen fruition at such a large company.
“It goes up multiple levels and may not ever become reality,” she said. “In a small organization like this…you can see the fruit of your labors.”
Yee had two children during her time at the district and said she worked up until the delivery days.
“My bosses teased me about that, but it’s a good memory. This is a really good place to work,” she said.
Yee was elected to the Olympic View Water and Sewer District board of commissioners in November and currently serves in Pos. 3.
She thanks NUD residents for the ”privilege and honor to serve them,” over the past 37 years.