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Inslee reflects in his final year as governor

Support, partnership with wife Trudi took courage

On the second level of the white and gray marbled Capitol building stands the Governor's office, guarded by a State Patrol trooper stationed outside. On the interior walls are portraits and paintings showcasing past Washington Governors.

In the heart of the conference room stands a grand dark wood table surrounded by twelve bulky wood and brown leather chairs, and the one at the head of the table, where Jay Inslee sits, has leather detailing of Washington's State seal at the top. The oval table is empty except a caffeine-free gold and red diet coke can.

“We don’t need any more caffeine in here,” Inslee joked.

Inslee, the longest-serving current governor in the nation, is overseeing the last weeks of his final legislative session and eyeing the end of his third and final term.

He said he feels like, “one of the luckiest people in the world,” looking forward to finishing strong and passing the torch as he celebrates 52 years of marriage to his close partner in work and life Trudi and prepares with her and his three sons and six grandchildren for their next adventure.

Reflecting on the path that got him to Olympia, Inslee said it may not have been possible without Trudi.

"That took courage," he said, in the way she supported him through the career changes, election campaigns and the relocations — leaving the apple orchards in Selah for meet-and-greets in Washington D.C., and back again.

A graduate of the University of Washington and the Willamette University College of Law, Inslee began his political career in the Washington State House of Representatives and served from 1989 to 1993. In 1993, the Inslees left behind the deep snow of Selah, Wash. where they raised their children and headed to Washington D.C., where he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995. He served only one term representing Eastern Washington’s 4th Congressional district. He made his first run for governor in 1996 but lost in the primary to fellow Democrat Gary Locke. Inslee then served as regional director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton. Having relocated to Western Washington, he returned to Congress from 1999 to 2012 representing King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. He was successful in his second run for governor in 2012.

None of it would have happened, he said, if Trudi didn't believe as much as he did in the policy changes, they have worked side by side all along to advance. It has been a decades long partnership. The Inslees became a pair when they were just 16-year-old high school students.

“I feel closer to her than I have at any other time in my life,” Jay Inslee said. “I don’t know how she feels about it. You would have to ask her,” he laughed.

In Olympia, Inslee said he loves that he gets to see Trudi almost every day. Trudi has been active in supporting gun safety, early childhood education and child homelessness. She was instrumental in establishing the first childcare facility on the Capitol campus in Olympia.

“No spouse has ever been more resilient and courageous in American political history than Trudi Inslee,” he said.

Inslee has been a champion of the fight against climate change for decades, and it was his central focus when he campaigned for the presidency. Just a few days ago, he said he tracked his passion back to 1988 after coming across an old junk box that housed his very first political flier that he handed out when going door to door. “We need to defeat climate change,” it read.

And when he spends time with his grandchildren, he said it re-ignites his fire to beat the threat of a warming climate.

“I have always felt in my life and my family’s life, that we have always been connected to the natural world,” Inslee said. “Whether it's hiking, biking, skiing…or just looking at a bird in the backyard. Things that were so important to my life… deserve to be protected.”

He said he is committed to continuing work to expand the clean energy economy after he leaves office. He said his motivation will only increase as the damage of a warming climate becomes more apparent. His Twitter bio reads: “On a mission to defeat climate change. Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and organize.”

“I will still be pushing the ball up the hill,” Inslee said.

Inslee’s Climate Commitment Act, which took effect in January of 2023, has a goal to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The act was recently targeted by Initiative 2117, a proposal that seeks to repeal parts of the act to lower taxes and business expenses.

Inslee believes state residents from across the political spectrum want to protect the state and its natural resources and ultimately will come to celebrate the results the act delivers.

“They do not want their families to breathe in pollution, kids getting emphysema. They don’t want to see us ravaged by forest fires,” Inslee said.

Inslee advises the next governor, whoever that is, to build a great team and preserve what the state has already accomplished.

“You have to be willing to constantly try to improve, which is also a recognition that you are not perfect from day one,” he said. “You have to accept that you are going to improve, which also recognizes there are some things that need improvement.”

Inslee said he and Trudi are happy to pass the keys to the next residents of the governor’s mansion.

Being governor is “the best job in public life," Inslee said, “because it is such a rare opportunity to know your whole state and become engaged in your whole state. You get to know people’s lives like you have never known before.”