Veteran Seattle lawmaker Gutiérrez Kenney announces retirement

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OLYMPIA—Upon announcing that she will not seek re-election this November, State Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney (D-Seattle) released the following statement:

“I feel truly honored that the people of North Seattle have allowed me to represent them all these years. It has been a wonderful experience. Every decision I have made has been with their best interests in mind; I hope they feel that I have served them well.

I have enormous faith in the people of Washington state. They can be tough on their elected officials, but that’s because they believe that we, as a state, can and will be better. I share that belief.

By the end of this term, I will have served 16 years in the Washington State House of Representatives.  The House is an institution that I hold very dear to my heart, and I count many of my colleagues – on both sides of the aisle – among my friends.

We may not see eye to eye on some issues, but I believe all of us, Democrats and Republicans, come to Olympia with a true commitment to the people we represent and a true desire to make our One Washington a better place for all.

I thank my husband Larry and all my kids for their love and support, but also for putting up with my absence three or four months out of the year, for many years.

And lastly, I am grateful for the trust, partnership and support of North Seattle residents, for making my service in the House so tremendously rewarding. While I will be out of elective office in 2013 for the first time in 16 years, I hope to continue my involvement and find new opportunities to serve our community and our state.”

 

House Speaker Frank Chopp issued this statement:

“To me, Phyllis’s story is the embodiment of the American Dream.  Born to migrant workers, she spent her early years working in the fields.  But she believed in the promise of this country and in the value of education and look at what she achieved!

“However, she never forgot her roots.  She has worked tirelessly on behalf of the underrepresented in our state, improving conditions for farm workers, fighting for educational opportunities for lower-income students, and providing shelter for the homeless.”

“We are going to miss her.”

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Partial biography for Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney:

Born to migrant farm workers from Mexico, Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney grew up in the Yakima Valley, Wapato and Toppenish, and was working in the fields with her family by the age of 5. After moving to the Tri-Cities in 1955, she began working on education and health care issues and on behalf of the underprivileged. She co-founded what’s now known as the Washington State Migrant Day Care Center and founded the Educational Institute for Rural Families, while also helping to establish the Farm Worker Health Clinics.

She moved to Seattle in 1976, where she became extremely active in the community, sitting on boards and committees from the Seattle Community College District to the Washington State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  She served as a member to Governor Lowry’s citizen advisory cabinet and was a Presidential Delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business.  She was also a member of the transition teams of both Governors Mike Lowry and Gary Locke.

She was appointed to the Washington State House of Representatives in 1997.

During her legislative tenure, Gutiérrez Kenney served as chair of the Higher Education committee for 4 years and in 2007 she was appointed chair of the House Community & Economic Development & Housing Committee.  She currently also sits on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Labor & Workforce Development Committee, and she is a member of the Joint House and Senate Committee on Economic Development and International Relations.

Eight terms in the House of Representatives gave Gutiérrez Kenney the opportunity to prime-sponsor a total of 260 bills, proudly seeing at least 50 of them signed into laws. Her legislative endeavors have significantly improved the lives of many Washington residents.

Some highlights include her sponsorship of the Tech Transfer Bill (HB 1806) in 2005 to give researchers in Washington’s public research institutions more flexibility to bring new technology to the public. That same year she also sponsored House Bill 1794 allowing branch campuses to offer four-year degrees. In her quest to increase access to higher education for more Washingtonians, in 2003 she sponsored HB 1079, which granted in-state tuition to undocumented resident students in the U.S. if certain criteria are met. Last year she sponsored HB 1822, giving official recognition to the first nonprofit online university in our state, WGU-Washington, which offers more than 50 baccalaureate and master’s degrees in high-demand fields including nursing, teaching, business administration, information technology, and software development.

Two Rep. Gutiérrez Kenney measures have received national accolades, including recognition from President Obama.  In 2007, she successfully sponsored House Bill 1906, establishing Opportunity Grants that provide financial support to low-income adult students receiving credentials in high-demand career fields.  She was also instrumental in developing the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) to enable students with limited English proficiency or low basic skill levels to more quickly earn Community and Technical College certificates and degrees by pairing training with ESL classes.

But her accomplishments also include numerous measures aimed at increasing economic development throughout Washington, especially for small businesses. In 2008 Gutiérrez Kenney sponsored landmark legislation to create the Building Communities Fund. This account provides communities with state matching grants to help fund the construction of projects which provide multi-services that strengthen and revitalize the economy of those areas. In 2009 she sponsored House Bill 2242 to consolidate the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development into the Department of Commerce to better serve Washington’s business community.

Because housing has always been a top priority for Gutiérrez Kenney, throughout her years in office, she has worked on several measures to reduce homelessness. This session she continued the fight with House Bill 2048, which makes changes to the Homeless Housing and Assistance Act document recording surcharge.

Without the passage of this bill, state and local homeless programs would have lost $41 million, translating in approximately 23,100 fewer homeless people being served during the next two years. That bill was sent to the Governor’s desk this week.

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