Three steps forward, two steps back

Freshman lawmaker reflects on his first session in Olympia

By Dan Aznoff | Aug 15, 2019

Former Mill Creek City Councilmember Jared Mead (D-Mill Creek) completed his first turn in the marathon known as the legislative session in Olympia and said he is prepared to go the distance.

Mead is home with his wife and new baby this summer after what he described as a “grueling” session as a state representative for the 44th Legislative District.

“I knew how Olympia worked from my time as a legislative aide, but the actual hours on the floor were an eye-opener,” Mead said during an exclusive interview with The Beacon. “There were times that we would spend 22 hours on the floor debating a bill until 6 a.m., then have just enough time to take a shower and grab a nap before we were back at it again by 11.”

Mead said he bonded with the other 12 members of the freshman class in the Democratic caucus. He was elected in what admits was a “Blue Wave” in November.

The Democratic majority in the state house coupled with a Democratic controlled state senate and a Democratic governor provides a rare opportunity, said Mead, to address issues like health care, which have been beyond reach in recent years.

“We have an opportunity to make history, not just in our state, but set precedents for states across the country,” Mead said with an optimistic smile.

His first session gave Mead a firsthand lesson in the “horse trading” that is necessary to get bills through the Legislature. He introduced his first bill during the very first week of the session, a bi-partisan proposal that would allow remote testimony for legislative hearings.

“New technology should be incorporated into our government,” said Mead. “We have Skype and can do three-way conversations. There is no reason why people should be forced to take a day off of work to travel to Olympia from Seattle, Yakima, or Spokane to provide 12 minutes of testimony on important issues.”

He thought the measure was “a no-brainer.” But he soon realized that nothing is black-and-white in the halls of politics.

“Thank goodness this is not Washington, D.C. Nobody tried to tie an immigration amendment or attach an abortion rider to my measure. But it was an education to learn the different prospective of lawmakers from eastern Washington.”

Lawmakers on the other side of the Cascades have other priorities, said Mead.

“And its not just because many of them are Republican.”

His bill was eventually passed out of committee, approved by both houses of the Legislature and sent to the governor for his signature. The final version had nine separate amendments.

The same was true with his second bill, a measure to create markets for items that could reduce items that normally end up in landfills. The legislation was a direct result of a decision by China to stop accepting items that are difficult to recycle.

Mead’s first year in Olympia had its high points, beginning with his first day on the floor of the assembly. Mead was called on to nominate fellow representative John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) as House Speaker Pro Tem of the lower house of the state Legislature. Lovick remains the first and only African-American to serve in the leadership role.

Mead said Lovick has become more than a mentor to him in the Legislature.

“John has taken me under his wing in ways that I never expected. We have always been friendly. But he has become a true friend by sharing his wisdom and allowing me to grow as a lawmaker.”

While other lawmakers were called upon to use their expertise on other issues, Mead said he gained immediate respect from his peers when the assembly debated college tuition and the burden of student debt.

“At 28 (27 when the session began in January), I was the member of the House with the most knowledge of college funding because I am the most recent graduate, and my wife is still working on her master’s degree.”

Mead said he also understands that he represents a purple district, meaning he must be as vigilant for the issues that are important to constituents in the city of Snohomish as he is for residents of Mill Creek.

Mead said his first year in Olympia has given him a much better definition of the word “representative.”

“I’m excited to go back to Olympia with a little more confidence and a lot more ideas to help the residents of the 44th District.”

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