Earlier this September, I concluded my third annual district-wide listening tour with key stops in the Methow Valley, including Pateros, Twisp and Mazama. We expanded this year’s tour by one additional day which was helpful and much needed. Traveling throughout north central Washington with my staff has become an annual tradition in the fall, the time of year that legislators traditionally begin planning for the upcoming legislative session.
In past years, I have visited Leavenworth, Cashmere, Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Chelan, Quincy, Coulee City, Soap Lake, Bridgeport, Pateros, Twisp, Winthrop and Waterville — all communities in our vast 12th Legislative District. This year’s tour included many of those same stops along with new additions of Mansfield and Mazama. The size and diversity of our district can make some decisions more difficult in Olympia, but I try my best to learn the range of issues affecting us — especially issues affecting communities like the Methow Valley along the outer portion of the district.
Hearing the diversity of voices throughout the region — as is the case each year — helps me do my job better. During this year’s listening tour, community members helped me learn more about agriculture, health care, wildfire, transportation, education, land use and clean energy issues just to name a few. Business regulations, tax pressure, outdoor recreation, traffic slowdowns, wildfire response, education funding, water availability and housing affordability continue to be topics of major interest. This feedback will certainly be helpful for me when casting key votes in Olympia.
The discussions this year at TwispWorks were very engaging, as usual. I learned more about some of the challenges associated with recycling in our region from Betsy Cushman, including transportation and changing markets conditions. Crystal Elliot-Perez shared more information about suction dredging legislation and recent efforts to remediate soil near Twisp associated with the former Red Shirt Mill. I also learned new information about biochar from the McCoy Family and the potential benefits a production facility could bring.
More highlights from my trip to the Methow included a follow-up visit on clean energy from the very articulate Liberty Bell High School students associated with the Methow Valley Citizens Council. In Mazama, the Methow Conservancy’s Jason Paulsen educated me on many ongoing projects, and I had good discussions with small business owner Brittany Aae about the need for rural broadband. Beyond my scheduled meetings, I had some fun, shorter discussions with the ever-energetic and positive Don Linnertz of TwispWorks, Missy LeDuc of the Mazama Store, Ashley Lodato of the Methow Arts Alliance, Brooke Lucy of Bluebird Grain Farms, and Natalie Kuehler, a local environmental law attorney.
Similar to past listening tours, I concluded my busy week with a community hike, this year up the Chelan Butte Trail overlooking beautiful Lake Chelan. The hikes provide me with an opportunity to connect with people in a unique and different way — and they have become “walk and talk” opportunities, which are a fun change of pace from common conference room or office discussions.
As I review my notes from this month’s listening sessions and reflect upon my good discussions in the Methow, I’ll travel to Olympia for next session not only better prepared to represent us but also filled with gratitude for the opportunity to do so. I continue to be honored to represent the amazing Methow Valley and the thoughtful and engaged people who make it a vibrant and hospitable community. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 12th District state senator. I appreciation your willingness to share your thoughts and ideas with me. I learn by listening.
Brad Hawkins is the 12th District state senator representing north central Washington in Olympia. He may be contacted at 360-786-7622 or email@example.com.