Skagit County hires new lobbying team
MOUNT VERNON — The Skagit County Board of Commissioners has hired a new lobbying team to represent the county’s interests in Olympia and Washington, D.C., for the next three years.
The commissioners approved two contracts Monday with Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs, which Skagit County spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler said is a team of lobbyists that will go to bat for Skagit County at the state and federal levels.
Through the contracts — one for state and one for federal representation — Skagit County agreed to pay up to $322,263 for services between Feb. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2021.
Skagit County Board of Commissioners Chair Lisa Janicki said hiring the team is a “strategic decision to formalize and prioritize our lobbying efforts in Olympia and Washington, D.C.”
The move comes about six months after the county’s contract with another lobbyist came to an end following public disapproval of the lobbyist representing the county in Washington, D.C.
Several residents — primarily those with environmental interests — raised concerns with the county about lobbyist Robert Weidner of Virginia due to Weidner’s alleged anti-environmental priorities and suspected support for county supremacy, meaning the desire for local control over federal public lands.
During the about three years of the new contracts, Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs will work with Skagit County to streamline funding requests and deliver messages to the right state and federal decision makers, Janicki said.
According to the Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs’ website, the company is a 21-member consultant team with offices in Seattle, Tacoma and Washington, D.C.
Janicki said the group’s vice president, Josh Weiss, has been assigned to Skagit County for state lobbying, while Senior Government Affairs Consultant Paul Hoover and Vice President of Federal Affairs Dale Learn will represent Skagit County in Washington, D.C.
Weiss has experience representing counties, with about a decade serving as the legislative relations and policy director for the Washington State Association of Counties, according to the group’s website.
Lean, who manages the group’s office in Washington, D.C., spent six years as an adviser to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and both he and Hoover once worked for U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)
“Through Josh Weiss’ work at Washington State Association of Counties, we are confident that he has a deep understanding of the challenges facing local government and he has the relationships in Olympia to help steer the Skagit County messages to the right people,” Janicki said.
At the state level, Skagit County’s priorities are to secure funding for planned behavioral health treatment facilities and for construction of an electric ferry for Guemes Island, Janicki said.
At the federal level, Janicki said the county’s focus is securing funding from the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and secure rural schools programs, which are aimed at benefiting the nation’s rural communities, particularly to make up for lost timber revenue.
Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs works for five other Washington state counties and about two dozen Washington state cities, as well as ports, public utility districts and private companies. It also has clients in other states and abroad.
Janicki said the county chose to contract with the team because the group is nonpartisan and has expertise in a range of government issues.
“It makes sense to coordinate our policy and funding requests through one firm,” she said.