Sixth District Rep. Jean Silver chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee. She holds a degree in business administration from Eastern Washington University and co-owns a glass company with her husband. They have three grown children.
After watching her bills die at the hands of Democrats controlling the House for 12 years, Jean Silver finally has the chance to see them enacted.
“Used to be I couldn’t even get my bills heard in committee,” Silver said. “But now I chair the committee.”
A businesswoman and certified public accountant by training, Silver’s mind has a practical bent. “I’m not one for the grand ideas,” she said. “I come up with ideas most people would use and understand.”
She takes a common-sense approach to budgeting, insisting there’s no reason government can’t be run more like a business.
She wants agencies to take a balance-sheet approach to spending, “and treat the money like it’s their own, and their equipment that way too.”
A cheerful blur of energy, she likes early starts and odd breakfasts: “Mushrooms. And I love rice.”
She won’t tell her age: “That’s private. I spend a lot time trying to look as young as I can, why would I tell anyone that?”
Her sunny ways can be deceiving. “I like a good fight. I’m very nice, but don’t mess with me.”
Ask Gary Locke, a former Democratic legislator from Seattle whom Silver regarded as a big spender. They got into a fight on the House floor during a budget debate two years ago that many still remember.
“I told him, ‘Let’s take it outside,”’ Silver said, and noted for the benefit of the entire House, the press, and visitors in the gallery that after all, she was taller than he.
“I wondered where I got that, it was so perfect,” Silver said, smiling at the memory. “He hated to be as short as he was.”
Silver, a Lutheran, figures the inspiration came from above.
“I have personal conversations with the Good Lord all the time. He’s been very generous to me. I can’t help but feel he watches over me. I talk to him all the time. That sense of strength is always there.”
She picked up the politics bug from her parents, who discussed the day’s events over the dinner table.
Silver said her chief goal is to rein in the cost of government.
“Look at state employee health benefits. My husband and I have never had it so good, and we don’t pay a thing. That’s not right.”
MEMO: Also see the story undre the headline “Republicans prepare to turn plans into law.”