By Sen. Brad Hawkins
As many of you can probably imagine, serving as a legislator is a challenging job. It requires a unique combination of skills, involving organization, strategy, communication, planning, delegating, and analyzing, not to mention absorbing criticism and successfully navigating political campaigns. People often ask me if public speaking is the most important skill a state senator can have. To their surprise, I tell them that the most important skill is listening.
This is why, following my election to the state Senate five years ago, I organized my first district listening tour, hoping to connect with communities in a meaningful and unique way. My idea was to set aside time each fall, when lawmakers traditionally begin looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session, to travel throughout our region and hear directly from you. Hearing from you is very important to me, but I know it can be difficult to come to Olympia in the winter, especially all the way from the Methow Valley. That is why the “listening tour” idea in the fall has worked well, and I’m grateful people have responded so positively.
Like everyone during the past year, my office has adapted during the COVID pandemic with “virtual” listening tours held via Zoom over the past two years. My 12th District listening tour this year was held Sept. 14 and 15. When held in-person, listening tours have taken me all throughout the 12th District and helped connect me with issues important to all four counties in our district — Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan — with stops into several communities. Previous Methow Valley listening tour stops have included visits to Pateros, Twisp, Winthrop, and Mazama.
Hosting a listening tour each fall helps me prepare for the upcoming session. Ideas shared during past listening tours have turned into successful legislative action. As examples, a suggestion by Leavenworth officials to dispose of brush and yard clippings resulted in a bill that became law in 2018. A funding request related to the Saddle Rock trail in Wenatchee became reality when it was included in the state capital budget two years ago. A road paving project to a popular fishing location in Okanogan County was recently approved. The Methow Valley’s biochar demonstration project — brought to me at TwispWorks by Tom and Gina McCoy — received funding this past legislative session. Besides legislative ideas, I also collect helpful feedback that prepares me to better represent you in Olympia.
I am very appreciative that my fifth annual listening tour was successful, thanks to those who participated, including residents from the Methow Valley. Topics shared this year included water, climate, transportation, recreation, school, healthcare, vaccine mandates, wildfire, and other issues, just to name a few. Even though the Methow Valley is on the outer edges of the 12th District, I never want you in any way to feel under-represented or without access to your officials. If you were not able to participate in this year’s listening tour, please feel free to contact me anytime to share your thoughts. Whether here in the district or in Olympia, please continue to reach out and stay in touch. I learn by listening.
Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, serves as state senator for North Central Washington.