Hometown: Olympia, Wash.
Role: Legislative Auditor, Washington Legislature
Years of legislative service: 18
One thing he loves about his state: “Washington in the summertime, because you just can’t beat it anywhere else in the nation. And I say that as a nonpartisan, objective, evidence-loving analyst.”
Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?
I work in a nonpartisan role, tasked with objectively answering questions the Legislature has about how government programs are actually performing relative to legislative expectations. I chose to work here because I believe passionately that an informed legislature is critical to a healthy democracy. It’s hard to think of a more noble profession.
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
Recruiting and developing smart and dedicated staff. Human capital is basically the only substantive asset a legislative body has. When I first started working for the Legislature, I didn’t understand how important human resource development was for the institution. Eventually, I discovered how critical this is, and as a staff leader decided that’s the area where I needed to focus my greatest effort.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Two items come to mind. The first one was, Don’t overthink your career path. Find a job you love doing, and the rest will follow (for the most part). The second was, Decide whether you want to be a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a big pond. Neither one is more right than the other, but thinking about it can help you decide the type of organization and role you’ll thrive in.
Who or what inspires you?
Observing legislators working together in a bipartisan setting. Legislators who engage in dialogue to learn from others, and who can be respectful when they disagree, inspire hope and faith in democracy.
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
For fiction, I recently finished “Harlem Shuffle,” by Colson Whitehead, which I loved. I’m currently reading “Remote Control,” by Nnedi Okorafor. For nonfiction, I can’t say enough good things about “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know,” by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant. I think it’s a must read for anyone who works in the legislative environment. And finally, I’m still working my way through “Salt” by Mark Kurlansky—which, yes, is about the history of salt. I will admit, I’m a nerd.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For its “Staff Snapshots” series, State Legislatures News is asking legislative staff about their role in the legislature. If you’d like to suggest a staffer for this series, please email Holly South at NCSL.