by Sarah Toce -
Unite Seattle Magazine
Though he stands at an impressive 6'2", 69-year-old Gov. Jay Robert Inslee appears to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet he somehow finds a way to remain calm, cool, and collected under the pandemic-size pressure.
Maybe it's the simplicity of the morning coffee routine he shares with his wife of nearly 48 years, Trudi.
Every day at either 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., Jay and Trudi convene over coffee to discuss their schedules. "It's really a nice thing to have," said the governor. And then the day begins.
"Typically, we'll have meetings with a variety of people [and] business groups around the state," he continued. "Most days I probably have a press conference of some nature. And then [we work] with our policy people, typically for an hour or two, looking at various policies. The pitches come really fast, so we're making decisions very quickly."
These decisions are responsible for helping to curtail the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic the likes of which haven't been seen on this Earth since the Black Plague of the 14th century, smallpox, or HIV, and for which there is currently no known vaccine.
As of 3:30 p.m. on June 18, 2020, COVID-19 had taken the lives of 1,245 Washingtonians, and the total number of people hospitalized in the state with a confirmed case of COVID-19 stood at 3,959. [NOTE: As of October 12, 2020 the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Washington state stands at 2,292 and the total number of people hospitalized in the state with confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 7,786.] Various regions in the state have progressed to different stages of reopening, but some, like King County, have barely moved at all. This is in large part due to lack of testing. [NOTE: More recently, however, King County has slowly been re-opening again and a considerable amount of testing is now available in King County.]
To this proud grandfather of three, numbers matter - he's a science guy who believes in math and factual data. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in economics before earning his law degree at Willamette University. He became the leading environmental candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign before bowing out and endorsing the current presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, earlier this year.
When pressed to consider a time in his life that helped prepared him for this moment we're currently going through, he became introspective.
"That's an interesting question," the Governor said. "There is a theme here& For 20 years I've tried to ask people to look at the science of climate change. Now, as far as how to deal with crisis, I've been in public life for decades. I actually think that's been helpful."
Gov. Inslee is a fifth-generation Washingtonian who has been in public life for 35 years. He worked as a prosecutor and attorney, raising three sons with Trudi in Selah, a small town near Yakima, before representing the 14th Legislative District in the state House of Representatives. He continued serving communities in the Yakima Valley when he was elected to Congress in 1992 for one term. In 1998, he was elected to Congress again, this time from the 1st Congressional District, and he served until 2012, when he was elected governor. He was reelected in 2016 .with 54% of the vote, a wider margin than in 2012.
Despite repeated public opposition from President Trump, the governor is protecting his state his way, with zero apologies.
"It's very challenging, because the president doesn't adhere to the facts," he said. "So that makes [this pandemic recovery] more difficult. There's a host of people within the federal government who are willing to work [with science] and fact-check. We work well with [those people]. Obviously it's been more difficult with the president. Really delayed response."
Before heading into another meeting, he offered a message to our readers.
"I appreciate what [your readers] are doing," he said. "Everyone has risen to some challenge somewhere in their personal life, and I just want to thank them. There are a lot of reasons to be proud of the response to this [pandemic]."
As for getting too comfortable in those masks that seem to fog up while wearing glasses (yes, it happens to him, too), he said, "Don't get too used to these masks. This is not our new normal. We will get through this."
And get through this we will. Thank you, Governor!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview with Governor Jay Inslee was conducted earlier this year on May 12 and is the cover story of Unite Seattle Magazine's fall issue that came out this month. Reprinted with permission.]