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Island musician, planner to head drug-free community effort

Luke McQuillin - Leslie Brown/Staff Photo
Luke McQuillin
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Luke McQuillin, an accomplished musician with an extensive background in public planning, has been chosen as the project coordinator for Vashon’s drug-free communities grant.

Earlier this year, McQuillin, 61, began volunteering for the project, a multi-year effort funded by the federal government to try to reverse the Island’s high rate of teen alcohol and drug use.

He spearheaded this summer’s Garage Project, a series of jam sessions for young musicians held at the Open Space for Art & Community, and has gone to one of the week-long trainings put on by the granting agency.

Claudia Gross Shader, who chairs the Vashon Healthy Community Net-work, which oversees the project, said she’s thrilled that the organization found someone as committed to the project as McQuillin.

His involvement, she said, “already shows an amazing amount of skill and determination.”

Ken Maaz, executive director of Vashon Youth & Family Services, the fiscal agent for the drug-free community grant, also praised McQuillin’s “demonstrated interest in the project.”

“He has a good feel for what needs to be done,” Maaz added. “I think we’re making a lot of good headway.”

McQuillin is well-known on the Island because of his musicianship; he’s currently in four Vashon bands — Loose Change, Turner Down, 5:01 and Cargo Jam. He plays the guitar and sings a little, with what he calls a “crunchy blue grass” voice.

Less well known is his professional life — for the last 11 years, until he was laid off due to financial cut-backs, he worked as a strategic advisor for Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.

His job, he said, required that he bring players from different parts of the city together to facilitate the permitting process — a skill that he said may work well in his new role as the coordinator of a large federal grant.

On Vashon, as in most communities, people work “in their silos,” he noted. “I hope I can knit the community together better,” he said.

McQuillin replaces Gin-ger Nocera, who became the project coordinator in November 2009 and left in June after her partner decided to open up his physical therapy practice in Bellingham.

McQuillin was selected after an intensive process, Maaz said. He was one 40 applicants for the job, four of whom were interviewed by a panel of nine, including two teenagers, a high school teacher and members of the coalition overseeing the federal grant.

McQuillin was selected on Aug. 17 and began working two days later, Maaz said.

As a planner, McQuillin is certified in a land-use practice that uses environmental changes — lighting, for instance — to counter illicit behavior. He said he plans to bring that expertise to bear as he works with the community to counter drug- and alcohol-use.

He also noted that he has a personal stake in the issue. McQuillin, who moved to Vashon 11 years ago, has two adult children on the Island and two grandchildren.

He began to volunteer for the project, he said, “because I want to give something back.”

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