Gael Tarleton on the House floor
Gael Tarleton on the House floor

Marked by short days and — at least for some of us — time off from school or work, the year end hol­i­day peri­od lends itself espe­cial­ly well to deep thinking.

At NPI, we are con­stant­ly look­ing ahead. There are many pro­found lessons from this year we can car­ry into the next. We’d like to see our region become bet­ter pre­pared: for the pan­dem­ic recov­ery, for an almost entire­ly remote leg­isla­tive ses­sion, for once-in-a-decade redis­trict­ing, and so much more.

The end of the year is also an oppor­tune time to be grate­ful for our bless­ings. There is one remark­able per­son in par­tic­u­lar who we’d like to rec­og­nize, cel­e­brate, and con­grat­u­late for a remark­able career in pub­lic service.

Next month, after five years on the Seat­tle Port Com­mis­sion and eight years in the State House, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton will retire from pub­lic service.

Gael, who is also a senior board­mem­ber for NPI, will be sore­ly missed in the Leg­is­la­ture. She was a leader in the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, serv­ing as Major­i­ty Floor Leader for three years, then wield­ing the House Finance gav­el for two.

We resolved not to let 2020 end with­out say­ing thank you to Gael and reflect­ing on the pro­gres­sive change she has helped bring to our region.

Putting togeth­er this ret­ro­spec­tive was very ful­fill­ing. We hope you enjoy it.

Portrait of senior NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton
Senior NPI board­mem­ber and State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton (Pub­lic­i­ty pho­to from Gael’s final cam­paign for elect­ed office)

Gael Donelan grew up north of Boston and earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty in the oth­er Wash­ing­ton. Pro­fi­cient in Russ­ian, she began work­ing at the Pen­ta­gon as the Sovi­et era drew to a close in the 80s.

Dee Ritchie, a pub­lish­er who now lives in Hans­ville, first met Gael while work­ing togeth­er at the Depart­ment of Defense as research analysts.

“[In those days,] there were pre­cious few women in tech­ni­cal and pol­i­cy posi­tions. The char­ac­ter­is­tic I admire most about Gael is that when she tack­les an idea, nev­er intim­i­dat­ed by its size, scope, or com­plex­i­ty, she reminds me of an Amer­i­can eagle, which once it locks its talons on its tar­get it can­not let go.”

“This is how Gael operates.”

When the Sovi­et Union col­lapsed, Gael moved to the pri­vate sec­tor, work­ing as an inter­na­tion­al busi­ness direc­tor for a tech­nol­o­gy company.

There, she “worked hard to help Russ­ian sci­en­tists find ways to use their exper­tise fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union,” accord­ing to Car­ol Vip­per­man. “Gael and I both worked very hard to help bring the new Rus­sia into the world com­mu­ni­ty, to make it a bet­ter place for its cit­i­zens, and to find con­struc­tive use of their tech­nol­o­gy and expertise.”

Years lat­er, they would both be sad­dened when Vladimir Putin came to pow­er, dash­ing hopes that Rus­sia might soon become more free and democratic.

Nei­ther Car­ol nor Gael were sur­prised, how­ev­er, when it became clear that Rus­sia had inter­fered in the 2016 Unit­ed States pres­i­den­tial election.

“They had been doing that long before in Europe, and we were next,” Car­ol told NPI. “Gael’s focus on using dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy to com­bat the influ­ence is the right strat­e­gy and some­thing that we still need to strengthen.”

Gael would lat­er run for Sec­re­tary of State empha­siz­ing that exact need to mod­ern­ize our elec­tion sys­tems to com­bat the dig­i­tal threats of the 21st century.

The con­vic­tions under­pin­ning her most recent can­di­da­cy were rein­forced over the course of four decades of work in the pub­lic and pri­vate sectors.

Gael’s first bid for office came in 2007, when she ran for one of the seats on the five-mem­ber elect­ed com­mis­sion that gov­erns the Port of Seattle.

Gael Tarleton with Lynn Allen and Joel Connelly
Future NPI board­mem­bers Gael Tar­leton and Lynn Allen dis­cuss Port pol­i­tics with future NPI con­trib­u­tor Joel Con­nel­ly and Nicholas Beau­drot over drinks (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Port had acquired a rep­u­ta­tion for dys­func­tion and crony­ism, sym­bol­ized by a seem­ing­ly unend­ing series of dis­as­trous head­lines (back when the P‑I was still a dai­ly news­pa­per!). King Coun­ty vot­ers were in the mood for change.

A des­per­ate two-term incum­bent Repub­li­can Com­mis­sion­er Bob Edwards went neg­a­tive in Octo­ber after trail­ing Gael by five points in the pri­ma­ry election.

Yet Gael emerged vic­to­ri­ous as the returns came in on Novem­ber 6th, and so began a remark­able career in pub­lic office in Wash­ing­ton State.

Jason Ben­nett, a con­sul­tant on her first cam­paign, remem­bers fond­ly Gael’s metic­u­lous­ness when explor­ing this first run for office.

“[She was] thor­ough and dili­gent in her data col­lec­tion and analy­sis, seek­ing input from var­i­ous polit­i­cal lead­ers and inter­view­ing a selec­tion of cam­paign con­sul­tants to help guide her first run for pub­lic office,” Ben­nett told NPI.

NPI founder Andrew Vil­leneuve met Gael ear­ly on dur­ing that cam­paign, and inter­viewed her for an episode of NPI’s 2006–2008 pod­cast series.

“Meet­ing Gael was one of the high points of the 2000s for me,” said Villeneuve.

“I kept think­ing to myself, what a great can­di­date. What an excep­tion­al per­son. This is some­one worth know­ing and build­ing a rela­tion­ship with.”

“I could imme­di­ate­ly see Gael had a strate­gic mind and real­ly under­stood the pow­er of long term think­ing and invest­ing. I was so hap­py to be able to vote for Gael in one of my first gen­er­al elec­tions as a young voter.”

“Not long after, I start­ed work­ing to put togeth­er NPI’s inau­gur­al Board of Direc­tors, and I asked Gael to be on it. I felt instinc­tive­ly that the board would ben­e­fit from her expe­ri­ence and wis­dom. And it has. Tremendously.”

“Work­ing with Gael is a joy and a priv­i­lege. She’s smart. She’s com­pas­sion­ate. She’s both a good lis­ten­er and a pow­er­ful speak­er. She brings this incred­i­ble mix of seren­i­ty, ener­gy, and prac­ti­cal focus to any con­ver­sa­tion that she’s part of. Her lead­er­ship has been essen­tial to NPI’s growth and suc­cess these past ten years.”

Gael has served con­tin­u­ous­ly on NPI’s board from its found­ing to the present.

NPI's Gael Tarleton and Andrew Villeneuve
Gael Tar­leton and Andrew Vil­leneuve at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundrais­ing Gala. The duo are NPI’s longest-serv­ing lead­ers. (Pho­to: Lin­coln Potter/Samaya LLC for NPI)

The Port of Seat­tle nat­u­ral­ly also ben­e­fit­ed from Gael’s expe­ri­ence and wisdom.

In her five years on the Com­mis­sion, Gael helped lead the Port out of scan­dal. She brought unglam­orous but need­ed reforms to King Coun­ty’s eco­nom­ic engine.

Brady Walkin­shaw, a for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive who served in the Leg­is­la­ture along­side Gael, told us how these expe­ri­ences shaped her as a legislator.

“I’ve always felt that her work and her wis­dom are deeply root­ed in val­ues of fair­ness and jus­tice, and she brings a pas­sion and know-how about eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment that’s root­ed in the hands-on exper­tise of her career.”

“Gael’s work before she came to pol­i­tics and elect­ed office, on intel­li­gence and inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment, always makes her per­spec­tives all the rich­er and nuanced. With Gael’s back­ground in the ports, her exper­tise on mar­itime issues made her a sought after source of coun­sel among leg­isla­tive colleagues.”

Reduc­ing emis­sions, end­ing crony­ism, pro­tect­ing fish­eries, and build­ing bet­ter rela­tion­ships with oth­er ports and local gov­ern­ments were among Gael’s goals as a Port Com­mis­sion­er. She was eas­i­ly reelect­ed to a sec­ond term in 2011.

When Mary Lou Dick­er­son announced her retire­ment from the Leg­is­la­ture at the end of the 2011-12 ses­sion, Gael decid­ed to run for her seat in the 36th LD.

The 36th, a dis­trict that cur­rent­ly encom­pass­es Bal­lard, Phin­ney Ridge, Fre­mont, and Bell­town, is syn­ony­mous with pro­gres­sive val­ues and leadership.

Gael’s fel­low board­mem­bers and the NPI staff were very excit­ed about her can­di­da­cy. By that point, Gael had become NPI’s President.

While NPI refrains from mak­ing endorse­ments or engag­ing in elec­tion­eer­ing on behalf of any can­di­date, staff were proud to see Gael come first in the August Top Two elec­tion and go on to earn 55% of the vote in November.

We knew well that in Gael, an effec­tive leg­is­la­tor was head­ed to Olympia.

Gael Tarleton takes her first oath of office as a legislator
New­ly-elect­ed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton (cen­ter) takes her first oath of office as a state leg­is­la­tor on Jan­u­ary 14th, 2013 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Wash­ing­ton’s state­house was some­thing of a mess when the 63rd State Leg­is­la­ture was sworn in on Jan­u­ary 14th, 2013.

Two trai­tor­ous Democ­rats in the Sen­ate had gift­ed Repub­li­cans con­trol of the cham­ber despite vot­ers send­ing a Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­ta to Olympia.

The House and Sen­ate had to write leg­is­la­tion to meet the Supreme Court’s McCleary orders while also agree­ing on a series of bud­gets to keep the state’s pub­lic ser­vices func­tion­ing dur­ing a peri­od of slug­gish eco­nom­ic activity.

And to top it all off, there was a new chief exec­u­tive, Jay Inslee, who had just pre­vailed over Rob McKen­na in a hot­ly con­test­ed guber­na­to­r­i­al race.

Amidst these new dynam­ics, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tar­leton was care­ful with what she got involved with that ses­sion, only spon­sor­ing three bills. Instead, she spent her time devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships with Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike.

“As a per­son, she’s so gen­uine and has a gift for work­ing across the aisle and devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships,” said Michelle Nance, Gael’s leg­isla­tive assis­tant dur­ing the 2013 ses­sion. “One of her room­mates was a Repub­li­can dur­ing that first ses­sion. It clear­ly showed because her bills would pass unanimously.”

“It’s just not the par­ti­san pol­i­tics you see in Congress.”

Gael’s first bill spon­sor­ship was leg­is­la­tion that amend­ed the Land­lord-Ten­ant Act to require land­lords to safe­guard dupli­cate keys.

Nance recalled the sto­ry behind the bill.

“There was this hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion where a main­te­nance work­er got a hold of the keys to a rental unit and bru­tal­ly raped the ten­ant. She and her attor­ney brought this to Gael, and Gael made this her first spon­sor­ship. It spoke to her heart.”

“She was pas­sion­ate for help­ing oth­er women. It appealed to her sense of jus­tice. We were told it would be very dif­fi­cult to get it passed because the land­lord lob­by was very opposed to more regulations.”

So Gael got to work, using her new rela­tion­ships to build up bipar­ti­san sup­port for the bill. To bor­row Dee’s ear­li­er anal­o­gy, she was like an eagle with locked talons.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, House Bill 1647 passed the House 98–0, the Sen­ate 42–5, and was signed into law that sum­mer by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

Gael Tarleton on the House floor
Gael Tar­leton on the House floor (Leg­isla­tive photo)

First sworn in as part of the 63th Leg­is­la­ture in Jan­u­ary 2013, Gael quick­ly found her­self ris­ing up the ranks with­in House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Lead­er­ship. She became Major­i­ty Floor Leader in 2016, mid­way through her sec­ond term.

A pre­cise and nuanced thinker, she was keen­ly in touch with what was going on in the world and shared her exper­tise with her colleagues.

“Some of my favorite moments with Gael were our debriefs at the end of the day — as the ear­ly spring sky grew dark, we would unpack the news of the day and Gael would share her insights (she and I worked togeth­er in 2016, so there was always news to dis­cuss),” said Elka Peter­son Horner, anoth­er for­mer leg­isla­tive assis­tant who worked with Gael mid­way through her House years.

“What is remark­able about Gael is that she was always inter­est­ed in hear­ing how I saw things, or how I approached a prob­lem. I know that I am not alone in this expe­ri­ence, and that she has gen­er­ous­ly shared her time and feed­back with many others.”

Dur­ing her third term in the Leg­is­la­ture, there was increased inter­est in improv­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty in Olympia from all four corners.

Rus­si­a’s med­dling in the 2016 elec­tions and the Trump regime’s hos­til­i­ty to net neu­tral­i­ty pro­vid­ed an open­ing. When the oppor­tu­ni­ty came to take action, Gael’s past work expe­ri­ence and rela­tion­ships with oth­er leg­is­la­tors real­ly counted.

In 2017, Sub­sti­tute House Bill 2200, which reaf­firmed con­sumer pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions from broad­band com­pa­nies, passed the House 87–10.

In 2018, House Bill 2678, which sought to strength­en cyber­crime laws, drew sup­port from 97 out of 98 representatives.

“She was real­ly gift­ed at con­nect­ing peo­ple with under­ly­ing ideals,” said Michelle Nance, remem­ber­ing Gael’s abil­i­ty to mar­shal large coali­tions of law­mak­ers to vote for sen­si­ble (and often, sur­pris­ing­ly sim­ple) pro­gres­sive ideas.

Gael was also a strong sup­port­er of good pay­ing mar­itime jobs and high­er edu­ca­tion dur­ing her time in the Legislature.

She worked as a research advis­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton while serv­ing as a Com­mis­sion­er for the Port of Seat­tle. The ship­yards of Inter­bay and the Hiram M. Chit­ten­den Locks also anchor the 36th LD.

Elka Peter­son Horner recalled Gael’s expert advo­ca­cy for this wor­thy cause.

“In 2017, she intro­duced a remark­able piece of leg­is­la­tion (HB 1154) which sup­port­ed the mar­itime and fish­ing indus­try through tax incen­tives. The bill passed out of the House in 2018 with near unan­i­mous support.”

“This pas­sion also took the form of sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ty and tech­ni­cal col­leges across the state. She was con­sis­tent­ly able to demon­strate how a strong mar­itime indus­try has ben­e­fit statewide. And by lever­ag­ing the nexus between high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tems and eco­nom­ic growth, Gael was able to affect a great deal of change and build strong coali­tions across par­ty lines.”

Gael was also cho­sen to rep­re­sent Wash­ing­ton on the gov­ern­ing body of PNWER, the Pacif­ic North­West Eco­nom­ic Region. PNWER is “a statu­to­ry public/private non-prof­it cre­at­ed in 1991 by the states of Alas­ka, Ida­ho, Ore­gon, Mon­tana, Wash­ing­ton, and the Cana­di­an provinces of British Colum­bia, Alber­ta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon and North­west Territories.”

Gael cur­rent­ly serves as PNWER’s Vice President.

2020 leadership of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region
The cur­rent lead­er­ship of the Pacif­ic North­West Eco­nom­ic Region includes Gael Tar­leton, its Vice Pres­i­dent (Screen­shot)

At the begin­ning of the 66th Leg­is­la­ture in 2019, Gael took the gav­el of the influ­en­tial House Finance Com­mit­tee (which has juris­dic­tion over rev­enue bills) for what turned out to be her last term in the House. From that influ­en­tial perch, Gael shep­herd­ed through the Leg­is­la­ture one of its most sig­nif­i­cant recent achieve­ments: the com­pre­hen­sive cli­mate action pack­age of 2019.

The bills con­tained a lot of sig­nif­i­cant pro­vi­sions. The state com­mit­ted itself to ful­ly aban­don­ing dirty fos­sil fuels, elec­tri­fy­ing our trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, and mak­ing build­ings and appli­ances much more ener­gy efficient.

“What made Gael so effec­tive in Olympia is her abil­i­ty to cre­ate a long-term leg­isla­tive plan and do the polit­i­cal work to see it enact­ed,” said Jacob Thor­pe, who served as Gael’s leg­isla­tive assis­tant from August 2017 until Decem­ber 2019.

“When I first start­ed work­ing for Gael, one of my first tasks was to sched­ule stake­hold­er meet­ings for that land­mark bill to tran­si­tion Washington’s elec­tri­cal grid to 100% clean ener­gy,” Thor­pe recalled.

“Gael spent dozens of hours that ses­sion craft­ing and refin­ing that sore­ly need­ed leg­is­la­tion. By the end of ses­sion, even though it was unlike­ly to pass, I’d see Gael sit­ting alone on the House floor work­ing on that bill before I left for the day.”

“It did not receive a floor vote dur­ing that bien­ni­um, but Gael patient­ly laid the ground­work for it to become a pri­or­i­ty bill for the cau­cus. Many leg­is­la­tors moved on, but Gael kept the momen­tum going with a new bill in the next cycle and got leg­is­la­tion passed that is con­sid­ered a mod­el for a green future.”

Get­ting so many bills through many dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees quick­ly was tricky but nec­es­sary. House Finance was involved with many of the bills in the pack­age, and Gael per­son­al­ly spon­sored one of the com­pan­ion Sen­ate bills in the House.

When the pack­age was final­ly signed into law in May 2019, Gael her­self authored a post on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate to cel­e­brate and com­mem­o­rate the occasion.

“Build­ing momen­tum takes more than a ses­sion. It takes patience and per­sis­tence to build a broad base of sup­port,” she observed.

NPI's Gael Tarleton speaks at signing of five pollution fighting bills
Gael speaks at sign­ing of five pol­lu­tion fight­ing bills (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Gael’s seat­mates cit­ed the 2019 cli­mate action pack­age and her advo­ca­cy for good pay­ing mar­itime jobs as her top accom­plish­ments in office.

“It has been a priv­i­lege to serve along­side Gael Tar­leton on behalf of the 36th Dis­trict for five of her eight years rep­re­sent­ing our dis­trict,” said fel­low State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Noel Frame, who has been cho­sen by their col­leagues to suc­ceed Gael as Chair of the House Finance Com­mit­tee next year.

“Gael is one of hard­est work­ing peo­ple I know, with the sun­ni­est dis­po­si­tion a per­son could have. Gael has served as an elect­ed offi­cial these last ten plus years, but her career of pub­lic ser­vice stretch­es over decades.”

“Whether as a Port Com­mis­sion­er or State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Gael’s ded­i­ca­tion to eco­nom­ic and work­force devel­op­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly with­in the mar­itime indus­try that is so crit­i­cal to our leg­isla­tive dis­trict, has been admirable.”

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tive-elect Liz Berry and I have big shoes to fill when it comes to advo­cat­ing for this crit­i­cal indus­try and for advo­cat­ing for diverse path­ways in high­er edu­ca­tion! Most impor­tant­ly, Gael has gone out of her way to men­tor and empow­er oth­er women in pub­lic office, includ­ing me.”

“Gael and I have run against each oth­er sev­er­al times and she has won every time — ha! But in vic­to­ry, Gael has not only been gra­cious, she has used her posi­tion to advo­cate for good pub­lic pol­i­cy and pro­vide a path­way for me and oth­ers to step into lead­er­ship roles. For that, I will for­ev­er be grateful.”

“The insight and per­spec­tive that I would share about Gael is dri­ven by her pro­found respect for the insti­tu­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy,” said Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, who was Gael’s seat­mate in the House before mov­ing over to the Sen­ate after Jeanne Kohl-Welles’ elec­tion to the King Coun­ty Coun­cil. (Frame was cho­sen as Car­lyle’s suc­ces­sor by the Coun­cil, on the advice of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.)

“She sim­ply trea­sures the good­ness of our con­sti­tu­tion­al repub­lic, the role of pub­lic ser­vice, the dig­ni­ty of poli­cies that help peo­ple and the sense of decen­cy that comes from hard work. In my expe­ri­ence, she brings the same work eth­ic of dig­ging deep into an issue that she and her fam­i­ly brought to gen­er­a­tions of hard-work­ing folks on the shores of New England.”

“I had the great hon­or of work­ing close­ly with Gael on a wide range of issues in our ser­vice togeth­er. She has the abil­i­ty and desire to lis­ten deeply to the real issues that sur­face in a bat­tle, and to hear voic­es from diverse inter­ests, and walk through the com­plex­i­ty with great care and resolve.”

“Togeth­er we tack­led so many issues on behalf of the good peo­ple of the 36th Dis­trict and statewide, and I am so grate­ful for her partnership.”

“In 2019, our work togeth­er on the state’s 100% clean ener­gy bill was his­toric in scope. Togeth­er every step of the way, we craft­ed a win-win bill that is now wide­ly seen as the strongest 100% clean ener­gy bill in the nation.”

“Impor­tant­ly to me, it’s also the one major bill that util­i­ties were able to sup­port since they have to imple­ment the pol­i­cy. So it’s a gen­uine win-win for the envi­ron­ment and for ratepay­ers,” Car­lyle explained.

“Gael is a deeply car­ing per­son. She val­ues diverse think­ing, ideas and people’s lived expe­ri­ences. Gael has served the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton with extra­or­di­nary dig­ni­ty that rep­re­sents the best of ser­vant leadership.”

“It’s been an hon­or to be her part­ner in service.”

Gael Tarleton with Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Noel Frame, and Reuven Carlyle
The mighty 36th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­ga­tion: State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton, King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber and for­mer State Sen­a­tor Jeanne Kohl-Welles, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Noel Frame, and State Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, pho­tographed after PCOs nom­i­nat­ed Car­lyle to take over for Kohl-Welles, and after Frame was nom­i­nat­ed to take over for Car­lyle (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

In 2019, Gael also put her hat in the ring to suc­ceed Frank Chopp as Speak­er of the House as one of four female can­di­dates for the cau­cus’ top job. Though she cam­paigned vig­or­ous­ly, the cau­cus chose anoth­er can­di­date, Lau­rie Jink­ins (D‑27th Dis­trict), who sub­se­quent­ly became Wash­ing­ton’s first woman Speak­er, one hun­dred years after the pas­sage of the Nine­teenth Amendment.

In 2020, Gael again shep­herd­ed two bills on elec­tion secu­ri­ty through both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture with very lit­tle opposition.

(They were House Bill 1251, con­cern­ing dig­i­tal elec­tion infra­struc­ture, and House Bill 2421, on reim­burs­ing elec­tion costs.)

These bills reflect her decades of expe­ri­ence work­ing in the nation­al secu­ri­ty indus­try defend­ing her coun­try. They are emblem­at­ic of the same ideals that spurned her to run for Sec­re­tary of State in 2020.

Gael ran a spir­it­ed cam­paign, chal­leng­ing incum­bent Repub­li­can Kim Wyman to aggres­sive­ly respond to Don­ald Trump’s dan­ger­ous attacks on the integri­ty of our vote-at-home sys­tem — which Wyman most­ly refused to do.

Gael brought her expe­ri­ence to the table as part of her cam­paign. Too lit­tle nation­al secu­ri­ty exper­tise is cur­rent­ly tapped when elec­tion secu­ri­ty deci­sions are made, result­ing in sys­tems prone to mal­func­tion and vul­ner­a­ble to attack.

While Gael was unable to break the Repub­li­can stran­gle­hold on the Sec­re­tary of State’s office that has last­ed since the pres­i­den­cy of Lyn­don B. John­son, her cam­paign laid down a new high water mark for Democrats.

Out of the eleven attempts to unseat incum­bent Repub­li­can sec­re­taries of state since 1968, Gael’s cam­paign won the high­est share of the vote for any Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger. (We checked.) In the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic. Against an incum­bent receiv­ing boat­loads of most­ly-pos­i­tive media cov­er­age, both nation­al and local.

That per­for­mance is a tes­ta­ment to her out­stand­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions, pow­er­ful cam­paign work eth­ic, strate­gic focus, and com­mit­ment to pub­lic service.

While putting togeth­er this appre­ci­a­tion, many of Gael’s friends and for­mer col­leagues sent us reflec­tions hon­or­ing Gael’s remark­able career, some of which we have already quot­ed from above. Here are a few more reflections.

“I adore Gael. She has embod­ied pub­lic ser­vice and led on pro­gres­sive pub­lic pol­i­cy­mak­ing. I look for­ward to see­ing what comes next for her in her out­stand­ing career.”

– King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Kohl-Welles (4th District)

“Gael told me many years ago that she had always want­ed to work in pub­lic ser­vice and to run for office. She believed strong­ly in pub­lic ser­vice and the impor­tance of a strong democ­ra­cy. It was years lat­er that she actu­al­ly decid­ed to run for the Port Com­mis­sion fol­lowed by her run for the WA State leg­is­la­ture. I think her intel­li­gence, com­pas­sion for oth­ers, hard work and knowl­edge of the issues, and her com­mit­ment to doing what’s best for the com­mu­ni­ty made it easy to con­nect to voters.”

– Car­ol Vipperman

“Much to my delight, in 2013, Gael suc­ceed­ed me in rep­re­sent­ing the 36th Dis­trict in the Leg­is­la­ture. She was a thought­ful, strate­gic, and effec­tive leader whose pol­i­cy work ben­e­fit­ed not only the 36th Dis­trict, but the entire state. Her leg­is­la­tion on issues affect­ing cli­mate change and her efforts to cre­ate a more pro­gres­sive tax base have been significant.”

– Gael’s pre­de­ces­sor Mary Lou Dick­er­son, D‑36th District

“My friend and polit­i­cal col­league (Gael) and I have been close since we ran our first cam­paigns in 2007 — over thir­teen years ago — and polit­i­cal friend­ships can be rare indeed. Gael is that rare indi­vid­ual who pos­sess­es the abil­i­ty to be an excel­lent retail politi­cian and down-to-earth at the same time.”

– Mo Judge, long­time friend and can­di­date for State Sen­ate, 41st LD (Mer­cer Island, New­cas­tle, Sam­mamish) in 2012

“I was work­ing as a cam­paign man­ag­er and my can­di­date and Gael were good friends, so our paths would often cross and we would vis­it. I loved get­ting to know Gael and was an instant super-fan. She was smart, mea­sured, fun to be around and pur­pose­ful­ly dri­ven to serve her com­mu­ni­ty and our state. In oth­er words, she knew why she was run­ning for office.”

– Gael’s suc­ces­sor Liz Berry, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive-elect, D‑36th District

“I remem­ber many eleventh hour bud­get pro­vi­sos where she was a pas­sion­ate advo­cate for the plan­et and envi­ron­men­tal pri­or­i­ties. We’ll miss Gael in elect­ed office, but I’m sure she’ll either be back again soon or dis­cov­er new ways to move moun­tains toward a bet­ter, more just future!”

– Brady Walkinshaw

“I feel lucky to call Gael a good friend, but in many ways, a soul sis­ter. Togeth­er we have fought hard to make the world a lit­tle bet­ter. Along the way, she has taught me that it’s pos­si­ble to be a brave and kind war­rior even when faced with com­plete betray­al. Gael has always tak­en the high­er road and always treat­ed her staff and vol­un­teers with integri­ty and respect. Her abil­i­ty to make you per­son­al­ly feel like a super­hero in the cause, is her super pow­er. She will always be my shero.”

– Sue Evans, friend and consultant

“If Con­gress was com­prised of Gael Tar­letons, it would be a much bet­ter system.”

– Michelle Nance

“G is for Grat­i­tude. Gael approach­es her work with humil­i­ty and a the desire to serve. She respects all points of view. She is kind and fair. A is for Astound­ing. The work that Gael in tax reform has done has made our state able to with­stand COVID and her com­mit­ment to clean ener­gy will serve gen­er­a­tions. E is for Excep­tion­al. Gael works hard. She is an hon­est bro­ker and stays pos­i­tive in the most chal­leng­ing of sit­u­a­tions. She sets an exam­ple for oth­ers. L is for Love. Gael is deeply loved by her com­mu­ni­ty, her col­leagues and the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State. Thank you for the love that you have shown to us, Gael!”

– State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amy Walen, Gael’s vice chair (D‑48th District)

Gael Tarleton speaking at NPI's 2018 Winter Holiday Party
Found­ing NPI board­mem­ber and State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton speaks at NPI’s 2018 Win­ter Hol­i­day Par­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Gael, on behalf of the staff at NPI, con­grat­u­la­tions on con­clud­ing an incred­i­ble career in pub­lic ser­vice. We are hon­ored and thank­ful to have you as our most senior board­mem­ber, and glad to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue to ben­e­fit from your wis­dom and guid­ance as our coun­try moves out of the Trump error.

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3 replies on “Congratulations to NPI’s Gael Tarleton on concluding thirteen years of public service”

  1. Thank you for tak­ing the time to reach out to Gael’s col­leagues and friends to pro­vide us with this recog­ni­tion that has brought tears of joy. It is grat­i­fy­ing to read that she has cre­at­ed such a sup­port­ive net­work of mar­velous peo­ple in her cho­sen home; I rec­og­nize names from con­ver­sa­tions Gael and I have shared over the years. While we on the East Coast miss our sis­ter ter­ri­bly, espe­cial­ly dur­ing this pan­dem­ic, we con­tin­ue to be so very proud of the work our “Amer­i­can eagle” has done/is doing and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

  2. Excel­lent trib­ute to a ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic ser­vant. It was a priv­i­lege to have served with Rep. Tarleton.

  3. There are few peo­ple who live a life­time and accom­plish what Gael accom­plished and are writ­ten about in such a dis­tin­guished way. I am hon­ored to know some­one who gen­uine­ly works for the peo­ple as Gael does. I am lucky to have her as a sister-in-law!

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