Sells to retire from State House

OLYMPIA – Snohomish-area State Representative Mike Sells, D-Everett, announced he will not seek reelection in November.

Over his 17+ years in the House of Representatives, Sells, who has been at the helm of the Labor and Workplace Standards Committee for over a decade, built a reputation as one of the most progressive lawmakers in Washington state, fighting passionately for working families and challenging the status quo.

His legislative accomplishments include working to reform Unemployment Insurance, modernizing Workers’ Comp, strengthening safety standards in the workplace, creating internship and apprenticeship opportunities, and helping to establish Paid Family Medical Leave. What he is most proud of are the creation of the Washington Aerospace Training & Research Center at Paine Field, bringing a Bachelor of Science Nursing program to Everett Community College through the Univ. of Washington Bothell, and the creation of WSU Everett.

“You don’t create training hubs, healthcare programs and 4-year colleges every day. You don’t do these things by yourself, by the way. It takes working and building relationships with others, listening and responding to community leaders, not to mention some great partners over in the Senate. I have seen, first-hand, the difference that they are making in the lives of folks in Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties,” said Sells who, as a teacher of over three decades, knows the value of access to education.


Of his experience working with fellow lawmakers, especially his seatmates, he said:

“Serving as a state representative for the 38th Legislative District has been an honor. Every day is a learning experience in dealing with some very serious challenges like the Great Recession and, of course, this pandemic. 

“I have been fortunate to work with so many interesting, smart, and good people. My district is a perfect example: I have great respect for former Senator John McCoy, especially what he did in changing the dynamics with tribal issues and educating me on them. He didn’t shy away; he was quiet and strong in the face of some pretty tough opposition. As a result, he got things done. And my current seatmates, Senator June Robinson has brought great intellect and determination to struggle through tough issues, and Representative Emily Wicks has brought an amazing amount of energy and focus on serving all our communities: Everett, Marysville, Tulalip.”


When asked what his best advice is for people considering a run for office, he said:

“Your goal has to be clear and always in sight: to get things done, regardless of who gets the credit. And you can’t take things personally because it’s not about you, it’s about the issues. So, when things get heated up, which they invariably do, you can’t hold grudges, you have to move on. That’s the only way to get things done which, again, is the goal of this job. 

“A lot of people come in thinking it’s all about the bills and getting them to the governor, but it is so much more than that. There are times when you’re so focused on trying to get your bills through that you’re missing perspective, so you learn to get out of the way and listen. And there are times when things just don’t move forward, but they start conversations and help to educate folks. The next time you bring that issue to the table, its chances of passing may have increased significantly and support that much broader. And, there are times that the problem can be solved through different avenues.”


Sells said his success in legislating is owed to the work and support of community and tribal leaders in Everett, Marysville and Tulalip.

“They helped set agendas for our communities, listened to the people and helped build the support structures for moving legislation forward. We don’t do these things alone if we wish to be successful. It is the same with the great advocates for working people we have in this state. I was lucky to have a great group of partners and a family that supported my work.”