March 12, 2022
Age scrutiny aside, state’s youngest senator looks after business in the 42nd
Clifford Heberden

At 22, Simon Sefzik anticipated age-based judgements after he was selected to serve as the 42nd District’s state senator; the reality was a mixed bag. On the helpful side, he encountered mentoring and useful advice during his session at the Capitol — and aspires to go back for more. (Photo courtesy Washington State Senate)

March 12, 2022
Age scrutiny aside, state’s youngest senator looks after business in the 42nd
Clifford Heberden

share:

Sen. Simon Sefzik, representing the 42nd District, last week recalled his aspirations from when he was 13 or 14 years old growing up in Ferndale. He said he knew he wanted to become a constitutional attorney and do federal appellate advocacy, because that was his passion. 

“It still is my passion, my plan is still at some point in my future, as uncertain as it is, to go to law school,” Sefzik said. “That’s sort of where my bent always was; I was always very interested in policy and politics.”

So when the seat was left vacant with the death in December of then-senator Doug Ericksen after his bout with COVID-19, Sefzik said members of the community suggested he “throw his name in the ring.” 

“I was never really planning on it. This is maybe something I thought I would do 30, 40 years down the road, but not at this age,” Sefzik said. 

An abrupt start

But serving as state senator quickly became reality when he was appointed on Jan. 11 — one day after the opening of the 2022 session.

“I was just in sort of shock and disbelief; I didn’t think it would happen,” Sefzik said. “So it was just sort of like a ‘holy cow’ type of thing, and then, quite frankly, my phone just started blowing up with hundreds of messages and texts.”

Being a regular 22-year-old who still watches YouTube and scrolls through memes, alongside becoming a member of the Senate, Sefzik said the transition has been fast, and he has been learning and working to do the best work possible.

“It’s like drinking from a firehose, just because there’s been so much to learn, so much to do,” Sefzik said. “The staff here has been so helpful to me, so patient, so kind and caring and so I have very much appreciated everything that they’ve done and that’s helped me with the transition for sure.”

While being a newcomer to the Legislature can seem daunting, Sefzik says he’s been taking it all in and enjoying the process, getting to know his fellow senators and receiving help and mentorship. 

He mentioned John Braun (R-Lewis County), the Senate minority leader, who he said “has really been a good coach and very helpful” showing him around the building and taking him under his wing.

“One of the nice things about being new to this is that I don’t come with as many of these preconceived notions that some people have about the way [the Legislature] should work,” Sefzik said. “I think it’s allowed me to just approach things with a more refreshed mentality.”

Rural relief

In his time as a senator in this short session, Sefzik said, many things have been accomplished. While he has some disagreements with the budget that was passed on March 10, he’s happy the community he grew up in, which was impacted by the November flooding, will get some financial relief from the government.

“My number-one priority when I came in was to make sure we got some flood relief funding, and we got more than $7 million to go to the families and the businesses that were hurt,” Sefzik said.

Sefzik said he saw the rural community he grew up with having to cope with emotional and financial impacts of the floods and their solidarity inspired him.

“When you’re out in more rural areas, if you’re in need, it’s not a government agency that comes and saves you, it’s not some paperwork that you fill out that gets you taken care of, ultimately, it’s your community,” Sefzik said. “The stories that I’ve heard are just incredible, how older people were being rescued from a tractor bed by a neighbor who lived a mile down the road, that sort of stuff just really hit me.”

Sefzik said those moments really reminded him of the values and things he learned growing up on a farm. 

“It also, to me, is just one of the great reminders of who we are as Whatcom County, in those moments, nobody cares whether you’re Republican or Democrat, nobody cares who you voted for, who you love, or any of those things,” Sefzik said. “They’re there to help each other.”

More flood work

He plans to continue supporting the flood mitigation efforts for his constituency now that the short session has ended.

“There’s still so much paperwork that people are working through with the flood stuff, so that’s something that I’ve worked on behind the scenes, getting FEMA, Washington Military Office, all these different groups, directly working with people that have reached out to my office,” Sefzik said. “That’s one of the things I’m going to do and I am constantly calling or emailing different victims in the flood, that process will be ongoing.”

Sefzik said he’s really excited to go back to the 42nd District and meet with more people face-to-face and hear about their concerns, hopes and plans for the future. With all the issues facing Whatcom County, he said he expected all the talk around judgements made based on his age.

“I don’t think I’ve spoken that candidly about this before, but to be honest, parts of it are kind of cool and parts of it are really, really hard,” Sefzik said. “The hard part is always just seeing what people write about you or seeing the comments people leave about you and you haven’t even had a chance to meet them before.”

Being the youngest member of the Senate has come with a little scrutiny, but Sefzik said an important reminder for him is that he’s just a person and wants to be able to do work in the best way he can.

“The advice I got from the lieutenant governor [Denny Heck] the day I arrived here was ‘you have an important job, but you are not an important person’ and I think that’s actually a very good way of looking at it,” Sefzik said. “As cool as all this is and as special as it is (and I pinch myself sometimes to appreciate it), I’m not a particularly special person and I just am here because I have a job to do and my hope is that I’m able to do it to the fullest.”

On Feb. 9, Sefzik announced he will be running to keep his Senate seat in the 2022 general election next November.

— Reported by Clifford Heberden

We welcome letters to the editor responding to or amplifying subjects addressed in the Salish Current. If you wish to contribute to Community Voices, please send an email with a subject proposal to Managing Editor Mike Sato (msato@rockisland.com) and he will respond with guidelines.

Donate to support nonpartisan, fact-based, no-paywall local journalism — Salish Current.

A STRONG COMMUNITY NEEDS A STRONG LOCAL PRESS.

Help us revive local journalism.

MORE
photo: Amy Nelson © 2022
© 2022 Salish Current | site by Shew Design