Steve Tharinger attended his first Washington State Legislature training this month, got his car tuned up for the impending long drives to Olympia, and, despite his rookie status going into a nightmare of a budget session, he is excited.
The three-term Clallam County commissioner and legislator-elect to Rep. Lynn Kessler’s seat will be sworn in Jan. 10 and the next day will get to work.
“Obviously I’m interested in the political process and making the government work for people,” Tharinger said, adding he wants to build more partnerships to increase efficiencies and bring the government closer to the people they serve.
For the duration of the 105-day legislative session, Tharinger will balance his commissioner duties with his legislative obligations as best he can.
He’ll come home on the weekends to spend time with his wife, Yvonne, and go over the county meeting packets. For the Monday and Tuesday commissioner meetings he will phone in, which is permitted, and for the public hearings he can’t attend he will review the audio recordings, which can be e-mailed.
To avoid any conflicts of interest and free up his schedule, Tharinger will stop his involvement in several boards including the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Olympic Community Action Programs Board and the Puget Sound Partnership’s Salmon Recovery Council and Ecosystem Coordination Board.
In exchange, he’ll pick up a position in the Legislature’s environment committee, capital budget committee and he will serve as vice chairman of the local government committee.
To keep their spending down and operate more efficiently, Tharinger will share Rep. Kevin Van De Wege’s office in Sequim. Additionally Tharinger hired legislative assistant Billie Toyra to staff an office in Olympia shared by him, Van De Wege and Rep. Jim Hargrove.
Toyra, of Montesano, has worked for Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Christine Gregoire and knows the 24th District well, Tharinger said.
The partnership among the three representatives is important, Tharinger said.
Hargrove’s trusted voice, Van De Wege’s leadership position as majority whip and his own background in local government will give them a coordinated approach to the benefit of the district, he said.
“That’s the tradition that has been in this district and I think it works well,” he said.
Up for round four?
With his seat as Clallam County commissioner up for election next year, Tharinger said he hasn’t thought about running for re-election yet.
His plan is to decide in June, after he sees how well his balancing act between the county and the Legislature works, he said.
While Mason County Commissioner Tim Sheldon successfully has balanced state and county duties for five years, Tharinger said he’ll see how it works out for himself and ultimately the voters will decide.
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