OLYMPIA – Trying to put her finger on the pulse of the dry side of the Cascade Mountains, Gov. Chris Gregoire has launched a 16-member Eastern Washington Advisory Council that includes Gonzaga President Rev. Robert Spitzer, S.J.
Spitzer is so far the lone person from northeastern Washington in the group. Seven members are from the Tri-Cities, and winery founder Mike Hogue hails from Prosser. Other members include former congressman Sid Morrison of Zillah, Cle Elum rancher and CEO Patricia Galloway, and fruit company president West Mathison of Wenatchee.
Gregoire met with the group at the governor’s mansion Friday in Olympia, calling it a welcome addition to the state’s efforts “to move, as one state, toward the next Washington.” “Next Washington” is a reference to Gregoire’s 10-year economic plan for the state.
“Several people from central and rural Washington talked to the governor and said they really feel like their voices aren’t heard in Olympia,” said Laurie Dolan, head of Gregoire’s policy advisers. When Gregoire agreed to continue the dialogue, she said, “the group created itself.” Others wishing to join, she said, should contact Kennewick’s Don Odegard, president of Watts Brothers Farms.
And Spokane folks “certainly know how to get to me,” said Dolan, who was a longtime Spokane-area resident. “And I get their issues to the governor, I promise.”
The group’s initial meeting focused on water issues, working with the Department of Ecology, farmworker visas and housing, the wine industry and better training for math and science teachers.
The other members of the group are:
Frank Armijo, Richland; Richard French, Richland; Ben George, Thorp; Jeff Hansell, Cle Elum; Dick Hoch, Kennewick; Bill Lampson, Kennewick; Cheri Marusa, South Cle Elum; Bill McCurley, Pasco; Gene Shields, Yakima; and Don Watts, Kennewick.