Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Second Monday in January -- Where I'm NOT!

The Washington State constitution says the Legislature shall convene it's annual session on the second Monday in January.  Ever since 1990 I've been in Olympia on the second Monday in January, working as a lobbyist and representing my clients for the duration of the session.   However, this year -- which would have been my 25th session, I'm not.   I decided to close up my lobbying practice at the end of 2013.   I am NOT retiring.  I am however refocusing what I do. 

I didn't set out to become a lobbyist at all.   I kind of "fell" into it.  I had graduated with my MPA from Arizona State in 1986 and had been offered a job as the "Legislative Liaison" for the Arizona Corporation Commission.   I had no idea what the job really was, but I took it and it involved representing the agency (which regulated utility companies), before the Arizona Legislature -- in effect a lobbyist for a state department.   I found I really enjoyed the work and eventually moved into a similar job with the private sector with the Arizona Credit Union League.   From there I was hired by the Washington Credit Union League in 1990 and moved to Seattle.   I left them two years later and started my own lobbying firm in 1993. 

Over the years I've represented a lot of great clients -- some for many years.   They have run the gamut from financial services, to telecommunications to tobacco to retail to candy and chemical manufacturers and restaurants.  I'm also very proud of the work we did together, the legislation we enacted, and the legislation and bad ideas we stopped.   It's been a very rewarding and enjoyable career. 

Like all careers it's had its highs and lows as well.   I think my greatest disappointment was failing to stop legislation that essentially put the small-loan industry out of business in Washington.   But that is far outweighed by the high points of being able to stand next to Governor Chris Gregoire in the wings of the Senate when they passed historic legislation such as adding sexual orientation to the civil rights code, and passing marriage equality in Washington, and working on the campaign to take the state out of the liquor business and allow for sales of liquor in grocery stores.

I've made a lot of friends and met some wonderful characters over the years.  There are too many to name here.   I will miss my friends and colleagues and the daily "routine" of Olympia.  I will miss walking the loops around the rotunda, the hard benches in the gallery watching the House and Senate, sitting on the marble steps waiting for endless caucuses to finish, late night dinner and drinks at Anthony's, the soup in the cafeteria, sitting in the rare sunshine on spring days around the sundial and the Sparfly end of session bbq.

Last Friday I filled out my final Public Disclosure Commission monthly lobbyist expenditure report.  A small form similar to a tax form that all lobbyists in Washington file each month before the 15th, and one I've filed every month since I first registered in February 1990.   At the end of the form there is a box to check, which I did, closing out my registration for all my remaining clients.   And with that, 24 years of lobbying in Washington has come to an end.
So what's next?   I'll be focusing on my writing -- working on some freelance pieces, as well as a couple of books, and my monthly column in Quick Throttle, and of course on selling and displaying my photography from the Ghosts of the Road series which you can see here

Admittedly it feels a little strange to not be in Olympia, but it also feels good and I'm excited about moving on with this next chapter.   I'm especially excited about the first book in the project -- which I'll post in a few days.

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