The Whatcom County Council on Jan. 11 voted in a special meeting to appoint the newest — and the youngest on record — member to serve in the Washington State Senate, filling the vacancy of the 42nd District seat of the late Sen. Doug Ericksen.
Voting in the majority to appoint Simon Sefzik was newly elected council member Kaylee Galloway, the youngest member of the current council, in her first meeting.
The council chose from among three candidates nominated by the county’s Republican party, with four votes going to Sefzik and two going to Ben Elenbaas, a current county council member who recused himself.
John Ramsey, chair of the Whatcom County Republican Party, watched the council vote and Sefzik’s subsequent swearing-in to the Washington State Legislature on Tuesday morning.
“We’re very pleased with their decision,” he said.
Although the party had examined a number of different council voting outcomes, they weren’t surprised with the council’s consensus, Ramsey added.
With Sefzik now in office, Ramsey said the first item of business in Olympia will be to further address local relief following the devastating flooding the 42nd District sustained in November.
Sefzik, who turned 22 on Dec. 21, takes office at a younger age than former senator Calvin Goings, who was more than 8 months past his 22nd birthday when he was appointed to a 25th District Senate post in 1995.
Sefzik recently graduated from Patrick Henry College, a Christian university in northeast Virginia. He interned in Congress and at the White House during 2020 and 2021.
Engaging a new generation
In written responses to questions posed by the Whatcom County Council for each of the three candidates, Sefzik said he believes his youth will be an asset in the Senate.
“It is my generation that will soon be the largest voting bloc, the largest taxpayer base and, ultimately, that will be tasked with solving Washington’s greatest challenges,” he said. “A healthy democracy requires an engaged electorate, and that necessitates involving my generation.”
Sefzik also said he plans to listen and learn from key stakeholders on both sides of the aisle in Olympia, finding points that unite rather than divide.
“I believe that we have more in common than what separates us,” he said, “and that we can, in good faith, achieve great things for Washington together.”
Sefzik said his top priorities will include flood relief, root causes of homelessness, housing affordability, agriculture, police reform and education.
Regarding issues that have somewhat divided state Republicans in the legislature, Sefzik said he has no issues with being vaccinated in order to be present in the Senate chamber (currently something only required in the House). He also said he believes that climate change is occurring, and at least partially responsible for recent severe weather events.
Sefzik has been given three committee assignments in the legislature: Health and Long-Term Care, Higher Education and Local Government.
‘A fantastic start’
For council member Galloway, the first day of “work” was exciting.
“Like many newly elected officials, I was a healthy combination of nervous and excited for my first meeting,” she said. “I hoped that I would live up to my promise of being ready to start on day one. After my first day of meetings, I feel like things are off to a fantastic start.”
Galloway has served as a legislative aide in Olympia so knows the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a short 60-day session facing Sefzik. She said it will be a steep learning curve but feels that the legislature is like family and public service is rewarding.
“Meet people where they are at, listen and learn, work hard, collaborate often and enjoy every minute — even in tough times,” she said.
Galloway considered it an honor to have the opportunity to appoint a young person to the Senate and was very impressed with him throughout the entire appointment process.
“I believe we need more young voices at tables where decisions are made as it is our generation that needs to be empowered to address the many issues we are facing.”
As for working with the members of the county council, including with Elenbaas whom she did not vote for in the Senate seat selection, Galloway sees opportunity to work with each member.
“I believe we work better together,” she said. “While we may not always agree on everything, it is clear we are all here for the same reason: to serve the people. I am especially interested in working with council member Elenbaas on agriculture issues including how we can support a thriving local food system and build climate resiliency.”
— Reporting by Matt Benoit and Mike Sato
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