A Public Servant’s Journey from Furniture Salesman to Environmental Advocate and TNC Trustee — The Nature Conservancy in Washington

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Paul approaches his work with fun and humor while maintaining a genuine appreciation for the impact he has on the lives of his constituents. Born and raised in a close-knit community as the son of a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran, Paul’s upbringing instilled a sense of sacrifice and duty to serve others. He believes that sharing knowledge is the most critical responsibility of every elected official. Paul takes his job seriously and keeps citizens informed of the issues within their community and the solutions for them. He brings this commitment to his role as a Trustee for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Washington.   

Paul became a Trustee for TNC in Washington after leaving public office. While a commissioner, he worked with the organization on projects within the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan to protect the Yakima River. The river is home to Indigenous tribes, key wildlife species, outdoor sports enthusiasts, as well as wineries and breweries. One of the major projects including creating the Teanaway Community Forest—the “crown jewel” of Kittitas County and Washington’s first state-owned community forest. In a community forest, community members, including municipalities, Tribal Nations, and nonprofits develop land management plans to preserve the landmark for future generations.  

“It’s a community,” he said of working with TNC. “I was already interacting with [TNC’s] policy staff, coordinating advocacy efforts and policy proposals, so I knew that our values are aligned.” One of these shared values is creating consensus among stakeholders to pass good policies for people and the planet.  

“You can’t shop around for a better government,” Paul said. “You must work with others to get things done through cooperation and collaboration, not bullishly change things. The only way to get what you want in life is to help others get what they want, because that’s when you get a durable, sustainable solution that works in the public’s best interests.”  

Because of the local government’s proximity to the community it serves, Paul believes that it provides critical services more effectively with the resources at hand. The Taylor Bridge Fire of 2012 was a critical moment that proved the power of small, local government to act swiftly and deploy help. Despite warnings about dry conditions and strong winds, construction workers decided to weld in the August heat. They sparked a fire that moved up to 14 miles an hour. By the time firefighters contained it, the Taylor Bridge Fire claimed 62 homes. The mistake, coupled with climate change-driven heat, displaced people and animals. Paul had to work with many others to scramble to action just as the community was readying its fairgrounds to host the annual Ellensburg Rodeo, home to one of the top 10 rodeo events in the U.S.  

“We had a supply stock for mass evacuations and set up our fairgrounds as an evacuation site and temporary housing for various livestock,” Paul said about the ensuing chaos. “We had an army of volunteers providing 24-hour feeding and care for chickens, geese, horses, cows, dogs, cats, and llamas.”  

After this experience, Paul helped to ensured Kittitas County was the first in the state to adopt new construction and material codes in fire-prone areas. Even though some people were not happy about increased construction costs, the new regulations helped to protect homes in fire-prone areas.  



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