Recently elected Democratic State Sen. Claire Wilson has stepped down as president of the Federal Way School Board, but has decided to continue in her position as a member of the board through the end of 2019, when her term expires. She does not plan to seek re-election to the school board. Her Senate position is a four-year term that runs 2019-2022.
Wilson said the recent changes in the board, which included replacing Carol Gregory, who resigned, and Mildred Ollee, who passed away, deprived the Federal Way school district of needed experience at an important time. She said both new school board members, Trudy Davis and Luckisha Phillips, have encouraged her to remain to ease their transition. Phillips will be up for election this year and Davis in 2021.
Wilson said she understands that serving in both positions will be a challenge until the spring, when the Legislature adjourns, due to overlapping schedules. A legislator’s day typically runs 12 hours per day when in session, with frequent evening meetings or receptions with constituents.
Wilson said she plans to commute to Olympia daily and will reserve time for regular school board meetings along with other important meetings on her schedule for school business. For study sessions, she may need to call in on occasion. She will continue frequent meetings with Superintendent Tammy Campbell to remain current on district issues. Wilson said: “I want to keep up with the work, but keep the responsibilities separate.”
In the Senate, Wilson has been appointed vice chair of the Early Learning and K-12 Committee and will serve on the Transportation Committee, along with Human Services, Rehabilitation and Re-entry Committee, and will be holding a leadership position as assistant whip. She has consulted with attorneys to ensure that she averts any legal conflicts with dual service.
Wilson recognizes that the state Senate is a much more political environment than the Federal Way School Board, and that the dual service, even for a short time, could become a political issue now or when she runs for re-election. While legislators receive an annual salary, school board positions only receive a reimbursement for time and expenses, which is capped at $4,800 per year.
Historically, most school board members elected to the Legislature have resigned from their school positions. Wilson noted two other school board members who were elected to the Legislature did resign their board seats. But her decision is not without precedent, as others have held both positions for short periods, including in Federal Way.
Wilson said everyone she has talked to has been supportive of her decision, but also noted “if I feel or the board feels, at any point, this were taking away from the board rather than adding, I would reconsider my decision.”
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.