Legislature's top farmer leads Senate GOP
By STEVE BROWN
OLYMPIA -- Mark Schoesler first brought his farming experience to the state Capitol in 1992. For the next two years, he will bring those same ideals to his new position as Senate Republican leader.
"Farming has shaped my philosophy," he said. "You're always saving for a rainy day, or investing in things that will help you through a rainy day. Farmers who don't adapt struggle, and you should apply those ideas to government."
Schoesler's six terms in the House of Representatives and two terms in the Senate make him one of the longest-serving members of the Legislature in office, and his recent election to a third Senate term will make him the longest-serving legislator from Washington's 9th Legislative District.
The 9th District is among the largest in the state, covering all or part of six counties in eastern and southeastern Washington.
Schoesler grew up in the region, graduating from Ritzville High School and from Spokane Community College, where earned an associate's degree in agribusiness. He was a member of FFA from 1971-77 and state secretary from 1975-76.
Going back and forth between the Capitol and Adams and Lincoln counties, where he raises wheat, canola and cattle, has been his constant practice.
"One of the most important things about being a legislator is going back to your roots, to your real-life job," he said. "Getting get back on the fields and on the combine is a healthy release, and it reminds us where our constituents are.
"I'm a firm believer in a citizen legislature. Every member needs that perspective."
In his new leadership role, Schoesler will serve as caucus spokesman on legislative policy matters and represent the caucus in working with other elected officials and the governor. He will also be the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Rules Committee.
"I like to remind people that as a farmer, I'm an eternal optimist," he said. "I don't want our legislative branch to be like the one in the 'other Washington,' and that will be reflected in my approach as Senate Republican leader."
His counterpart, Senate Democratic leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, called Schoesler a "knowledgeable and dedicated legislator, and I congratulate him on his new leadership position. He and I have worked together on budget and transportation issues many times over the years, since the days when we both served in the House. I look forward to more constructive work with Sen. Schoesler in his new role."
Still up in the air is how the Senate will operate, either in traditional majority-minority style or led by a bipartisan coalition.
Schoesler said, "Regardless of how the Senate conducts business in 2013, I expect it will be more about policy and less about politics."
The budget constraints that continue to face the state will demand that government adapt, he said. "I've seen commodity prices got up and down, seen good crops and not-so-good crops. You change to meet the changing times. It reminds us how government needs to deliver services, or even if it should deliver those services."
Whether its feeding cows, storing grain or governing, "Pencil it out," Schoesler said. "Government needs to follow the examples of agriculture, and adapt the same way."