Colville-area farmer John Smith, 39, beat out Spokane legislative aide Josh Kerns, 27, for the position of Washington State 7th Legislative District Senator, replacing Republican Bob Morton, who announced his retirement in December.
Smith garnered 13 out of 15 votes from county commissioners of the 7th District, who met last Thursday in Colville to decide who would replace Morton to finish the last two years of his term in the Senate.
A third finalist, political consultant Doug Simpson, withdrew his name for consideration prior to the meeting.
Smith and his wife, Dezarae, raise cattle and produce north of Colville. They also run the Wednesday Colville Farmers Market, which Smith says will not interfere with his new responsibilities as State Senator.
â€śThe Legislature was actually designed to originally work around farm schedules, because the majority of the original legislators were farmers,â€ť says Smith. â€śThere will be no conflict between manÂ¬aging the Wednesday Farmers Market and serving as Senator. Session should be over before the market season starts. None of our current 7th District team has permanently relocated to Olympia, and many in the past have come home to farms and businesses when not in session. My appointment to the Senate doesn't mean I will abandon my passion for local agriculture and business, rather that I will take my fight to a different level.â€ť
Using our natural resources
The 7th District covers Stevens, Ferry, and Pend Oreille Counties; the northern part of Spokane County; and the majority of Okanogan County.
All 15 commissioners from the five counties gathered last Thursday for interviews and selection. The process took almost four hours. Two commissioners, Brian Dansel of Ferry County and Steve Parker from Stevens County, abstained from voting.
A former vice chairman of the Stevens County Republican Party, and former president of the Colville Chamber of Commerce, Smith counts agriculture and rural resources as issues he says he could help bring to the forefront of state legislation. Smith said he will await assignment to Senate committees, but will tout his districtâ€™s perspective on natural resourcesâ€™ legislation and issues involving water supply.
â€śWe live here because we love our region's natural beauty and resources,â€ť Smith said. â€śA myth has been fabricated by some to suggest that in order to live and work in resource-based industries, we need to destroy the environment. Rather, those of us who are engaged in the productive industries share a special reverence and appreciation that many who merely visit cannot. It is our livelihood, and our children's future, so we guard it through wise stewardship.
â€śAs far as water issues are concerned, current regulations often revolve around a King County-centric view of ecology. The climate, soils, rainfall, population, pollution sources, traffic, and industry concentration on this side of the state create entirely different conditions than those observed on the west side of the state. We need regionally relevant peer reviewed science to make sure that our reÂ¬sources and the culture and lifestyles of our local families are not squandered due to one-size-fits all regulation.â€ť
Unfazed about political bipartisanship, Smith adds that he has worked with both Republicans and Democrats and finds that both parties share a great deal of common ground.
â€śDeadlock and stalemate often result from political posturing and focusing on our differences instead of the things that are most important to us,â€ť says Smith. â€śLet's not use education and other key priorities of government as bargaining chips to support our pet projects. Instead, we should work together to get the most important things addressed first, then work out the other issues.â€ť