Meet Viggo Forde
Washington and Idaho’s new Honorary Consul is “humbled and honored” to serve
Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American
2018 was a sad year for Norwegian Americans in the Pacific Northwest with the passing of Honorary Consul Kim Nesselquist. Nesselquist had served the community for almost two decades and was a friend to all. Everyone wondered how this void could ever be filled.
But two days before Syttende Mai this year, Ambassador Kåre Aas and Consul General Jo Sletbak announced that longtime Greater Seattle resident Viggo Forde had been named the new Honorary Consul for Norway to Washington and Idaho.
The announcement took place at reception for the Seattle 17th of May Committee held at Columbia Bank in Ballard, with a lot of handshakes and cheers. A larger announcement was then made at the official 17th of May luncheon at the Nordic Museum to another round of enthusiastic hipp, hipp, hurras.
Forde is no stranger to the Seattle Norwegian community, active there since he landed in 1985. He first got involved as president of Association of Norwegian Students Abroad at the University of Washington and through the years has been a member and leader of various community organizations. A native of the Hardanger region in Western Norway, Forde had first come to the United States to study in Missouri, where he met his wife, Aileen. She was eager to return to her family in the Pacific Northwest, and Viggo found an excuse to follow her there. He continued his studies at the University of Washington, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering.
Forde says coming to the Puget Sound region brought him closer to Norway, with its mountains, water, outdoor lifestyle, and most of all, its large, vibrant Norwegian community. He was thrilled to hear Norwegian spoken in some of the businesses in Ballard, and he instantly felt at home. Over the years, his wife became “Norwegian by marriage,” and the couple went on to have three children, all of whom have taken a strong interest in their Norwegian heritage.
The move to Seattle also opened up opportunities for Forde to have a successful career, first at the Boeing Corporation. In 1995 he took on a new challenge at Microsoft. “It was exciting times to be there in the early days of the software industry,” he reminisced. Forde spent more than two decades at Microsoft, with a couple of years at Amazon wedged in, and these days he finds himself running the IT department for Snohomish County as CIO and Director.
Recently, I met up with Viggo Forde in Everett, Wash., to talk about what his position as Honorary Consul will mean for him. He shared that Nesselquist had reached out to him during his illness to discuss the possibility, explaining that beyond basic duties, it would be up to Forde to shape his new role. From the outset, he knew that as a proud Norwegian he wouldn’t say no, should he be officially offered the position.
Honorary Consul Forde is already hard at work. The Royal Norwegian Consulate in Seattle does not yet have a webpage, but the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/norwegianconsulateseattle) has been updated with new contact information. Forde is looking for office space in Everett, where he can set up office hours and schedule meetings on demand there or elsewhere. He has already responded to a large number of requests from Norwegian-born Americans looking to reinstate their Norwegian passports now that Norway allows dual citizenship. Beyond that, Forde also looks forward to learning more about the Norwegian-American community in Idaho.
With his IT skills, Forde is setting up an online FAQ page to make it easier for people to access the information they need. While there will always be questions about passports, visas, birth certificates, work permits, and such, beyond that, he is very interested in promoting Norwegian business and technology. For many years, he has been active in the local chapter of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce, where he continues to serve on the board.
Forde also shared that a vision for a Seattle-based Norwegian Innovation House are being discussed, and he sees great potential. He was pleased to be present when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the State of Washington and Innovation Norway to promote clean energy and maritime technologies. He sees important opportunities for the exchange of technology knowledge in both directions.
Honorary consuls do not receive any compensation for their work, but Forde says he feels both “humbled and honored” to serve: he sees it as a way to give back to a community that has given him so much. He understands the benefits and enrichment of cross-cultural experience and looks forward to “being a guide and a resource for people” as they look to realize their Norwegian-American dreams.
Learn more about Viggo Forde at his LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/viggoforde.
This article originally appeared in the June 14, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.