Politics: Sam Cho – Seattle magazine

Politics: Sam Cho – Seattle magazine
Politics: Sam Cho – Seattle magazine

Photography by Alex Cayley

Sam Cho is one of Seattle’s 25 Most Influential People Reshaping Our Region. #mostinfluential

When King County voters elected Sam Cho to the Seattle Port Commission at age 29, he became the youngest commissioner in the port’s 111-year history. Now 32, he is poised to become the youngest and first commissioner of color to be elected president in the institution’s history.

The bright and unassuming Cho credits a work ethic instilled in him by his Korean immigrant parents for his mercurial rise. His father moved to the United States in 1985. His mother followed in 1989. Born in Chicago in 1990, Cho eventually settled with his family in Kirkland.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in international studies from American University in Washington, DC, and a master’s degree from London School of Economics, he held several staff positions in public office, including as legislative assistant to Senator Bob Hasegawa in Washington, special assistant in United States General Services Administration during the Obama administration, and as a legislative assistant to US Congresswoman Ami Bera representing the Sacramento area.

In 2019, it was time for Cho to hold his own public office, successfully winning election to the Seattle Port Commission, replacing the retiring Courtney Gregoire. He has risen in leadership and taken on more responsibilities in his part-time, $50,000-a-year job while leading corporate strategy and business development for Volta, the San Francisco-based manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations.

Cho, who speaks fluent Korean, led efforts last year to create a green trade corridor with the port of Busan in South Korea, Washington state’s fourth-largest trading partner behind China, Japan and Vietnam. The Port of Seattle is the closest US port to South Korea.

The young entrepreneur has also integrated technology at Sea-Tac International Airport to make traffic and travel more seamless. Cho pushed to add lanes to the freeway entrance to Sea-Tac, install technology for travelers to reserve a parking space and have food delivered to airport gates, among other improvements.

During Cho’s tenure on the Port Commission, Sea-Tac has become one of only four major U.S. hub airports to receive a rating of four stars or higher from Skytrax, the prestigious arbiter of airport standards.

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“Making the experience as simple and seamless as possible helps reduce stress,” says Cho. “That’s why we’re trying to leverage that technology.”

Cho also negotiated an agreement with the Korean automakers Hyundai and KIA to import cars into the United States exclusively through the Port of Seattle.

I take advantage of my Korean background and language skills to deal with suppliers, says Cho.

Pay attention. Cho is just getting started.


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