I grew up in Spokane in a well-respected family where it seems everyone was either a teacher or an attorney. I come from a family of liberal Democrats. My grandfather, Del Cary Smith, was the prosecuting attorney in Port Townsend before Washington ever became a state. My Uncle Donald Cary Smith, was one of the youngest people ever elected to the Washington State Senate in 1933. Uncle Don lost his seat through redistricting in 1935.
When I was growing up our family did not have extra money, but we always had a comfortable home, food on the table, and a furnace that worked in the winter. After graduating from Lewis and Clark HS in 1970, I attended the University of Washington, then returned to Spokane to teach first grade at Bancroft Elementary in 1973, which at that time had a 97% free lunch count. Teaching and public service have been ingrained in me since birth, and I have worked with children and families in poverty since 1973.
In 1975, I was asked by the president of the Spokane Education Association (aka “Teachers’ Union”) to be part of a three member bargaining team. The state teacher collective bargaining law had just been passed, and for the first time teachers had the right to real collective bargaining. Contract negotiations proceeded adequately until 1979 when the Spokane teachers voted to go on strike. It takes a lot to get a large group of dedicated teachers to make this decision, and once the strike vote was taken, we were committed to the outcome (more school nurses was a particularly hot item). I was one of the strike leaders, and to this day have proudly kept the Order to Show Cause, the Complaint for Injunction and Damages, the Temporary Restraining Order, and the Summons that were delivered to my home on September 18, 1979. The strike was settled before arrests were made, but each of us involved in the leadership of the strike would have willingly gone to jail. It takes years to rebuild a good labor-management relationship after a strike.
In 1986, I was hired as an area director in the Spokane Public
Schools. Being on the “other side” of the table stretched my relationship building skills in new ways. I am proud that my life-long relationships with the leaders of the teachers’ union have remained strong to this day. Many critical issues arise with 1500 employees, and often my first call was to the union president to get her thoughts on how to solve a particular problem. We were also involved in hundreds of hours of “interest based bargaining,” a process that involves building a close, trusting working relationship between labor and management. It was a privilege to be part of this work.
In June of 2004, I retired after 30 years with the Spokane Public Schools. In spite of losing two hard fought Senate races in 2002 and 2004, I still had a strong premonition that I was meant to be in Olympia. So at the end of December when I received a call from Christine Gregoire to become her director of policy, my path to Olympia became clear. Governor Gregoire hired me on January 5, 2005, and I spent four more nights in my home in Spokane after that date. We had a legislative session to start on January 12th, and I had a multitude of policy advisors to hire. My husband Art, bless him, stayed in Spokane to sort through a big house filled with 18 years of raising kids. Lucky for me, he has forgiven me for this circumstance, and I have forgiven him for throwing away Anne and Tom’s school papers from first grade.
I spent four years (2005-2009) as Governor Gregoire’s policy director. During that time, we had money in the state budget and were able to pass legislation that greatly enhanced the lives of Washingtonians. Many people running for public office talk about the things that they have accomplished. What I know, having worked in two large systems, is that any accomplishments are the result of many people’s effort, and good leadership is what holds it all together. As I review the most important outcomes of our work, I know that it involved a visionary Governor, an excellent policy staff, advocates, and legislators who supported, improved, and approved the requests.Without each of these participants, we would not have been so successful.
After re-retiring in 2009, I served on the advisory board of Washington Aerospace Scholars', and Art and I traveled around the state encouraging K-12 superintendents and principals to enroll middle school students in the College Bound Scholars’ program. We are blessed to reside in a district and state where economic growth and opportunity coexist with protection of the environment, beautiful communities, a strong education system, and many important services for our children, seniors and vulnerable citizens. Equally, we are blessed to live in a state dedicated to social justice.
Being elected to serve as Representative in the 22nd LD in November 2016 was one of the greatest honors of my life, and I plan to spend my next years protecting and improving our quality of life, keeping Washington the best place to live, work and raise a family.