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Brad Hendrickson’s retirement plans include staying in Olympia and making time for colleagues and live music.

Brad Hendrickson Recognized for Decades of Service to Washington Senate

By Holly South | Jan. 28, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print


When the Washington Senate convened earlier this month, it marked the first session in the past 40 that Brad Hendrickson was not in the building.

At least not in person. But the longtime legislative fixture who recently retired as Senate secretary was in the thoughts of those who were there, including Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, whose opening remarks honored Hendrickson for a “lifetime of excellent public service.”

“There aren’t many who have seen our state Senate go from fax machines to virtual voting, the way Brad did,” said Senate Republican Leader John Braun, serving in his 10th session. “He set an exceptional example for service. In fact, someone calculated Brad had spent more than 3,500 days ‘in session.’ That’s commitment.”

There aren’t many who have seen our state Senate go from fax machines to virtual voting, the way Brad did. —Washington Senate Republican Leader John Braun

Hendrickson grew up on Puget Island, a fishing community of 200 about 95 miles south of the state capital, Olympia. He became an intern—and married another intern—then rose from session aide to caucus staff and Senate administration. Four different Senate secretaries appointed him as their deputy, and he headed up the Senate’s IT, accounting and human resources divisions at various times.

Hendrickson became Senate secretary in 2018—“The job I trained for my entire adult life,” he said. His tenure was marked by his interests in technology, civic education, his stewardship during the pandemic, his mentorship of dozens of staff and his excellent relationships on both sides of the aisle.

‘Perfect Fit’

“Brad was the perfect fit for the job of secretary of the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, who was the most recent to nominate him for the role. “He’s experienced but always willing to learn. He’s decisive but encourages collaboration. He earned the respect of members, staff and everyone else who had the good fortune to know him over his long career. He leaves a legacy and a model of how to do this job right.”

The chamber’s other “Brad H.,” Sen. Brad Hawkins, knew better than most the depth and breadth of Hendrickson’s work. “Because, periodically, my colleagues would (mistakenly) send me emails on a variety of matters I didn’t understand and later apologize for the Outlook autofill errors,” he said, laughing. “I am very thankful to Brad for his many years of dedicated public service. He made tremendous, noticeable contributions to the Senate during his time as secretary of the Senate.”

A member of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries for decades, Hendrickson served for several years in key roles on the Executive Committee and hosted two professional development seminars. The society honored him with the Legislative Staff Achievement Award in 2019. “As so many have said, there aren’t many who understand what we do, what our jobs are,” he said. “So to be around a group that does—it’s everything.”

Longtime friend Scott Kaiser, assistant secretary of the Illinois Senate, said that Hendrickson had the perfect combination of character traits for legislative work. “Sure, he’s smart, but he also has the finesse that is needed to work with senators and staff from all backgrounds and regions,” Kaiser said. “Brad’s ability to recognize and develop talent in others has made him a respected figure among his staff. He has worked with others to find new ways to apply technology advances to the Washington Senate, allowing for greater citizen participation in their government, even earning him NCSL awards.”

Kaiser, who met Hendrickson at an ASLCS meeting in 2005, added, “But perhaps more important than all these things, Brad doesn’t take himself too seriously. While the work we do is important, Brad knows that some humor along the way makes everything go more smoothly.”

Mentor to Many

Hendrickson saw a lot from his seat on the floor: legislative debates that resulted in significant environmental legislation; legalization of gay marriage; and Washington’s Basic Health Plan, a health care access act that predated and paved the way in the state for the Affordable Care Act. And there were dozens of honored guests, including the late Native American leader Billy Frank and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who signed Hendrickson’s fantasy football trophy.

Hendrickson considers it gratifying not only to have been twice elected secretary unanimously, but also to have watched colleagues blossom—including his successor, Sarah Bannister, who was sworn in on Jan. 10.

No matter what position Brad held in the Senate you could always count on his grace, honesty, genuine commitment to the institution—and a great music playlist. —Sarah Bannister, Washington Senate secretary

“I’ve had the honor of working with Brad for the last 22 years,” Bannister said. “He has been an important part of this institution for nearly 40 years and a mentor to not only me but so many others. No matter what position Brad held in the Senate you could always count on his grace, honesty, genuine commitment to the institution—and a great music playlist.”

Colleen Rust, the new deputy secretary of the senate who formerly led the Senate’s civics education efforts, agrees. “Brad’s leadership has positively impacted the Legislature in so many ways, particularly when it comes to his support of civic education,” she said. “Being a former legislative intern himself, he recognizes how vital it is to welcome young people into the legislative environment.”

Senate Clerk Brittany Yunker Carlson, who spent hundreds of hours with Hendrickson on the floor, described him as an excellent leader and mentor. “His decades of experience in the legislative environment gave him a balanced and insightful perspective. He treated his staff like teammates, always encouraged us, and made us laugh even in the toughest of times with his wicked sense of humor.”

“I really enjoy people and I’ve always liked mentoring—it’s something I’m really comfortable with,” said Hendrickson, whose retirement plans include staying in Olympia and making time for colleagues and live music. “The more you share, the more responsibility you grant to other people, the better position you’re in—both you and the organization.

“Treat people right,” Hendrickson said. “You never know who will rise to the top.”

The Senate on Jan. 12 honored Hendrickson with SR 8633 and a series of tributes from Senators. The video is available here.

Holly South is with NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services program and serves as the liaison to the American Society of Clerks and Secretaries.

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