One-on-one with candidate Dino Rossi
By ANGIE VOGT
Federal Way Mirror Political commentary
August 20, 2008 · Updated 9:58 AM
Note: The following interview ran Aug. 12 on the Red County Washington blog and has been reprinted with permission. The Mirror has not endorsed a candidate for governor.
I wanted to know a little more about what makes Republican Dino Rossi tick, what keeps him going on a personal level when he’s not talking about transportation or other pressing state issues. Dino was generous with his time and offered some reflective answers about his life and his quest for the Governor’s mansion.
Q: What is it you hope for regarding your children’s future as Washington residents?
Dino: This election is not about me, it’s not about Christine Gregoire; it’s about changing the culture and direction of state government for a generation. I want to leave a state where my children will grow up safe, get a good education, and be able to succeed. I have had family members leave Washington saying that they do not want to return because of the direction we’re heading.
My family has been here for over 100 years, starting with my grandfather Silvino, who emigrated from Italy and worked as a coal miner in Black Diamond, Washington. He came here because of the opportunities that existed for him and his family to succeed. I want my family to stay right here, and we have the opportunity to do something about it this November.
Q: When did you know you wanted to get into politics?
Dino: When I was younger I never thought I would be where I am today. Growing up, I actually wanted to be a teacher, just like my dad. It wasn’t until 1992, six months after my wife Terry and I moved our family from the Magnolia area of Seattle up to the Sammamish Plateau, that redistricting created a new legislative district in my area with no incumbents. I was flattered when a number of people recruited me to run for the new Senate seat. I was only 32 years old at the time, but I thought I had something to offer, so I ran.
Q: You’ve mentioned in your speeches a phrase about “protecting the most vulnerable” and I know that you’ve been recognized by a special needs community for your work. Can you tell us more about that work and what it meant to you?
Dino: In 2003, when we were faced with the largest deficit in state history, I happened to be the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. I made two commitments that year: We were going to balance the budget without raising taxes, and we were going to protect our most vulnerable citizens in the process. This meant the developmentally disabled, the mentally ill and folks in nursing homes. Even though we faced difficult economic times, we needed to be there to help those folks, because there but for the grace of God go you and I. I ended up receiving six different awards from the developmentally disabled community for living up to my pledge. My work that year reflected my belief that every soul has a value. Even though we face a significant budget deficit this next year, as governor I will continue to protect our most vulnerable.
Q: How has your father’s background as a teacher shaped your views about education?
Dino: As I mentioned, I grew up in an education family and I wanted to be a teacher myself because of my father, John Rossi. He taught at Viewlands Elementary and raised us seven children in Mountlake Terrace on a school teacher's salary. I meet people on the campaign trail all the time who tell me they were in his class, and tell me a story about how he had helped them. He could have done anything he wanted with his life, but he loved to teach and he thought he could make a difference. I remember influential teachers in my life, and I know that most people can think of teachers who made an imprint on their educational background. This is why I believe that we should be able to award exceptional teachers who are successful when it comes to teaching our children. We need to keep those teachers in the classroom. This fits in with my one simple test when it comes to education: What’s in the best interest of our students?
Q: How did you and Terry meet? How do you balance each other out?
Dino: My wife Terry is the biggest blessing in my life. Terry and I met when we were working at the same commercial real estate firm in Seattle. We recently celebrated our 21st anniversary, and I consider myself the luckiest guy on Earth.
Terry isn’t very political, but she is smart and keeps me grounded whenever the naysayers come around and I start to think success may not be possible.
Q: I know as a parent that each of my children have stretched me in different ways, making me a better human being. What have each of your kids taught you about life?
Dino: I have four beautiful children between the ages of 7 and 17 — Juliana, Jake, Joseph and Jillian. All are wonderful children who are very talented and each have blessed Terry and I in their own way. All of them are very excited about this campaign, although someone (I suspect her brothers) has told Jillian that the governor’s mansion is haunted, so she is a little apprehensive about moving to Olympia next year.
Q: What do you like to do for relaxation?
Dino: When I’m not on the campaign trail I spend as much time as possible with my wife Terry and our four children. I’m lucky enough to have been able to purchase a minority stake in the Mariners’ Class A team in Everett, the Aquasox. Whenever possible, we try to make it up to Everett to watch a baseball game as a family.
Q: You wrote a book about leadership. What do you think is missing from our state leaders that you intend to bring the table as governor?
Dino: I have always been successful in politics by not worrying about getting re-elected. I figure out what the right thing to do is, and then I go do it. I find this principle very freeing. I was happy before I got into politics, and I’ll be happy after. Whenever I have spoken with other political candidates, I encourage them to use the same principle. Unfortunately, I find that this sort of leadership is very short in Olympia, and that is what I intend to change.
Federal Way resident Angie Vogt: firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns and further commentary, visit www.soundupdate.com.