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Pflug eager to take her new seat in the Washington Senate
SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Before anyone thinks of her as a politician, state Sen. Cheryl Pflug wants to be thought of as a fan of her home, the 5th District in the Washington State Legislature.
"We really have the best district here," Pflug said.
Pflug was recently appointed to the Senate seat for the 5th District after fellow republican Dino Rossi left the position to run for governor this year. While there will be some big changes, it will not be a foreign environment for Pflug, who has been a representative for the district since 1998.
Public service runs in Pflug's family and she is a proud descendent of Chester Morse, an engineer for the city of Seattle responsible for designing the Cedar River Watershed. She grew up in Maple Valley and graduated in the top of her class at Tahoma High School in 1975. After attending the University of Washington, Pflug became a nurse but has stayed close to home. She and her husband raised their four children in a house between the one she grew up in and the one in which her sister lives.
While working and raising a family in Maple Valley, Pflug became involved in politics and got to know some of the local state and national representatives while working on campaigns. Those connections sought her out to run for a state representative seat in 1997, an election she won. In the past five years, she has chaired and sat on numerous committees. She was the vice chair for the House Republican Caucus and was also an assistant republican whip.
Pflug has prided herself on her work on local education, transportation and health care issues. One of the first bills she worked on was one to get construction done on Highway 18. The project was a long time coming since no work had been done to the road since the 1970s. She knows because she played at the ribbon cutting for the road when she was in high-school band. Pflug said she backs additional work on Highway 18 and wants to support any plans that gets traffic moving on the Eastside, especially more east-west routes.
Pflug stressed, however, that she is not for giving road development initiatives a blank check. She opposes any move to build a highway through the Valley, an idea (recently called the Washington Commerce Corridor) that has been perennially brought up in Olympia.
"It's [building a new highway through the Valley] attractive, but not through environmentally sensitive areas," she said.
Education has been another area Pflug said she will remain involved in. She said the state's schools should be excellent and witnessed firsthand the iniquity that influenced state education funding reform in the late 1970s.
"I take a real balanced approach to education," Pflug said. "The answer is not always more taxes."
Pflug said she supports testing in the state as a way of measuring how schools are doing, but believes the process still needs to be refined. The federal No Child Left Behind Act and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) have some flaws in that they might not take into account children who may never be able to pass certain subjects, such as students who are developmentally disabled or know English as a second language, Pflug said. While she is in favor of improving academic testing, Pflug said schools should focus on what children do well in, not just on what needs improvement.
"I want to get rid of the myth that normal equals average," Pflug said. "All children are good at something."
Pflug is especially proud of her work in health care, an area she wants to continue to be an influence on in the Senate. She has worked on unemployment insurance and workers' compensation reform and wants to work on tort reform as well. She said high insurance premiums are driving doctors out of business.
"High premiums hurt rural communities the hardest because there are fewer doctors," Pflug said.
Pflug will be able to work on many of her passions as a member of the Senate Ways and Means, Education, and Higher Education committees. The state Senate will be familiar territory for Pflug, but she will be looking forward to some of the changes. The Senate chamber is smaller than the House of Representatives, with 49 members to the House's 98. Decisions may be made more easily and she said the atmosphere is a bit more cordial than the House.
That won't mean the job will be any easier. Pending any changes this autumn, each chamber in the state Legislature is presently dominated by a different party, and Pflug's own party will be up against a Democratic governor.
She said she won't win all of her battles, but is happy to at least have a shot at making a difference in her own part of Washington.
"I love this community," she said.
* Contact Cheryl Pflug by calling (360) 786-7852, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at email@example.com.