I am a small business owner, Sammamish Planning Commissioner, Board Member for PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society), and an active Rotarian.
My wife, Jessica, and I have two dogs and a cat. We chose Sammamish to be our home after living in many places around the Puget Sound.
Business & Volunteer Activity
I cofounded a digital-first marketing agency that currently employs six people, a responsibility I do not take lightly. Our focus is on helping local governments communicate effectively with their residents, helping good candidates get elected to local office, and supporting non-profits.
As a Planning Commissioner, I voted to recommend the passage of the Urban Forest Management Plan, though much of the work was completed before I joined the Commission. I am looking forward to working on the implementation strategies, the teeth of the plan, to help preserve our trees. We also recommended new regulations for 5G wireless implementation –ensuring new towers would blend into our community – and new environmental regulations to the City Council for consideration. We are in the early stages of reviewing new development regulations, which I speak to here.
PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society)
I joined the Board of PAWS last year during a tumultuous time with the pandemic. I am proud that after a lot of work, the Board Members helped guide the organization toward fulfilling a years-long capital program to build a new, desperately needed facility. PAWS is in the process of a phased approach to building the new facilities, with the first building being a Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital, allowing them to enhance their care for sick, orphaned, or injured wildlife.
Seeing PAWS employees’ dedication to their work and care for companion animals and wildlife has been a great experience. I am glad I can play a small part in the process. And, if you ever run across injured wildlife or are looking to add a companion animal to your family, give PAWS a call!
I joined Rotary because they offer so many opportunities to give back to our community and meet many great people I might otherwise not. If you wonder how you can give back to your community, come to a Rotary meeting — there’s no shortage of things we need to do! If you don’t know, one of the things Rotary does is put on the Nightmare at Beaver Lake every year, which provides the funding we use to give out scholarships and community grants.
While we were unable to do the Nightmare last October because of the pandemic, we were able to use money raised previously to create a matching fund to benefit Harvest Against Hunger, which supports local foodbanks.
I hope I’ll see you at one of our Thursday morning meetings.
Life Story, how I got where I am today
I was born in Tacoma, Washington to John and Janice Amato. My family situation is a little confusing, so bear with me. I have a younger brother and I also have an older half-sister from my dad’s previous marriage. My older half-sister has a half-sister who I am very close with and have always considered my sister.
At the age of six, my mom was murdered, and the case remains unsolved. I still vividly remember the morning we learned of her death. My brother and I woke up and came downstairs; my grandmas and uncles were there. My dad sat us down on his lap by the front door and told us our mommy was in heaven. As I have gotten older, I realize more and more how much that impacted me — especially when I turned 27, the age she was when she was killed. This is one of the reasons I care so much about youth mental health.
I remember my brother and I told my dad after my mom was killed that we wanted a mommy, which might be one of the reasons he remarried quickly. My brother and I were soon legally adopted by his new wife. At this point, I gained another sister from our adoptive mom’s previous marriage. My parents placed my brother and I into a private school, and we moved from our little house in Central Tacoma, just outside of Hilltop (back then, it was not a safe area) to DuPont when I was around ten years old. But this new, and what I thought to be pretty perfect, life would not last long.
My parents soon divorced, and our adoptive mom received full custody. We ended up moving from DuPont — a town with safe streets and trails for whatever adventure we imagined on a given day — to multiple apartments, some in better neighborhoods than others. My brother and I were also pulled from the private school.
For multiple years my home life was very unstable. Amongst other things, I bounced between multiple schools from 6th – 8th grade, including homeschooling, private school, and a short stay “Reclamation Ranch” in Tennessee (which has since moved multiple times) when I was around 15 years old. I fully believe the allegations made against the Ranch based on my experience, but they were not that bad while I was there.
Shortly after arriving home from the reform school, our mom dropped my brother and me off at my grandma’s house for the summer and didn’t reach out for months. My grandma enrolled us in the Fife School District for my first year of high school.
A new start
From that point on, my maternal grandma raised me and my brother with my uncles providing logistical support, cooking dinners, and male role modeling. My maternal grandmother has been a constant throughout my life, and I credit her for salvaging what could have turned out to be one really messed up adult.
In high school, a teacher took me under his wing and provided a lot of guidance and advice. I was a computer geek and into web development, so he introduced me to one of his friends at Fife City Hall. From there, I was able to get an internship remaking the City’s website, but not before being more nervous than I had ever been. My interview was with the city manager, the assistant city manager, executive assistant, and others. It felt like ten people were in there, and it was 100 degrees. To this day, I don’t know if I held my own or they took pity on this high school junior they scared, but I like to think I proved my value during my tenure. This was a huge growing experience for which I am incredibly grateful.
Beginning my career
Redeveloping the City’s website helped me understand how much local governments do, and the structure of this job and responsibility helped to ground me. The internship grew into a position in IT, providing computer and network support. As a small department, we were housed under the Executive Department. This gave me a lot of face time with the City Manager and Assistant City Manager, providing me an inside look into running a city. I often had to provide technical support during city council meetings, which resulted in seeing how the work was done during the day as a result of policy decisions made during those evening council meetings.
While I mostly enjoyed my job and liked working with computers, it was the workings of government that really grabbed my attention. I had started attending DeVry University for a degree in computers, but my interest in that field was gone. I began working on political campaigns in my free time, soon landing myself a job managing a campaign. I left that good, stable government job for the uncertain life and low pay of a campaign staffer.
In 2011 I got a job on Rob McKenna’s gubernatorial campaign where I fell in love with the Finance Director, Jessica, and we began dating. In 2013, with Jessica’s support, I co-founded Sermo Digital. Five years after meeting, Jessica and I got married on July 9, 2016 at her grandparents’ home (outside and in the rain!) on Lake Lawrence near Yelm.
Jessica and I purchased a house in the Sunny Hills neighborhood in 2018 and began remodeling our 1970s home, doing most of the work ourselves and learning a lot along the way. We have two dogs, Laura and Ellie, and a cat named Ike.
We like to spend our free time walking the neighborhoods and trails and working on the house and yard.
Given my childhood, I never imagined having a stable life, small business, and living in a city like Sammamish. Many people helped me get where I am today, and I feel it’s time for me to start giving back.