Most people don’t grow up saying, “I want to be mayor of Newcastle,” but Ben Varon is delighted to have the position, which caps five years serving on that town-within-a-town’s city council.
“Technically, it’s a ceremonial position,” Ben says, but he does help “make decisions on the direction to go in. Citizens do look to you for guidance.
“My phone and my e-mail are extremely busy,” he adds.
The town of 9,500 is likely to be mistaken as part of Bellevue. It’s not large enough to have its own school district.(Students there go to school in either Issaquah or Renton, roughly depending on which side of Coal Creek Parkway they live on.)
Funding the Parkway’s upkeep is one of the more important issues for Newcastle. Land use and development is another, not surprisingly (a new YMCA and library are being built). One priority for Mayor Varon is turning some vacant land at the south end of the town into sports fields.
“That’s a good thing about…ball fields,” he says. “It brings the kids together from the different school districts.”
Ben is a Seattle native, a “Rainier Valley kid,” whose family moved to Mercer Island when he was in elementary school. (Mercer Island High ’75, followed by Washington State University). He and his wife, Julie, work together as real estate agents. They have three kids, Sarah, 15, a freshman at Northwest Yeshiva High School; Rachel, 13, at Maywood Middle School; and Sam, 11, in his last year at Newcastle Elementary.
Three kids, a business and civic duties leave only a little time for play, but Ben tries to get on the tennis court once a week and the golf course occasionally.
“I’m a dad, and an assistant baseball coach,” he points out, as well as a member of the PTSA and on his son’s school site committee.
“I have a passion for Newcastle,” he says, “and this is how I give back to the community.”
Rose Singer has been bumped upstairs — from president of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Seattle section to NCJW’s national board of directors. This becomes even more of an honor, as the organization recently streamlined the board from 40 members to about 28. (The last people from Washington to serve at the national level were Tina Novick in 1996 and Robin Boehler in 1993.)
“I’m really excited to be joining the board at this point because I feel my leadership and organizational skills will be helpful,” explained Rose, a management consultant. “I’m also honored because it gives representation to Seattle — I’m thrilled to be the voice of the Northwest.”
NCJW’s Seattle section is one of only nine that have executive directors (Lauren Simonds). They also operate Shalom Bayit, a furniture bank for survivors of domestic violence.
“I think our section is very progressive and I’m excited to share what we’ve done here,” says Rose.
With a business that keeps her traveling and a busy volunteer job, Rose spends her little bit of free time with her husband Max Michael, and her mother, Sylvia Saperstein. Growing up in Seattle, Rose was inspired by her mom’s involvement in NCJW.
“She really was a role model,” she says. “When I came back [from 12 years of living in the Bay Area] I helped her, and that’s how I got involved in NCJW. I’m continuing her legacy.”
Wendy Thomas becomes president of the Seattle Section in May. An election year makes the chapter busier than usual, says Rose, keeping issues of women, family and civil rights in the forefront, engaging “not just women, but like-minded people who want to work toward progressive change.”
More information is on the section Web site, www.ncjwseattle.org.
Tonia and Josh Feinstein are keeping it all in the neighborhood with Clover House, Tonia’s new store in Seattle’s developing, hip, urban-residential South Lake Union neighborhood near Westlake Avenue and Denny Way. It’s right across the street from Ducky’s, Josh’s furniture store.
Tonia describes Clover House as “a boutique, but with houseplants.” The former buyer for City People’s Garden Store says she loves plants and gardening, “but I’m really girly, and I like soaps and nail polish and pink. I’m trying to combine [them].” She carries bath and body products, stationery and home accessories.
The couple lives in a condo nearby and enjoys being part of this changing neighborhood. “I think it is going to be really exciting in the next couple of years,” says Tonia of the area. “There’s already a sense of a community…which is why a lot of people are moving here.”
Visit the shop at 900 Lenora Street, in the 2200 Westlake Retail Plaza above Whole Foods; or visit the Web site, www.cloverhousegifts.com.