He’s a ‘Survivor’: Steilacoom grad now governor’s counsel

Staff writerFebruary 25, 2013 

He’s gone from the Tribal Council to general counsel.

Former “Survivor” castaway Nick Brown starts March 4 as new Gov. Jay Inslee’s official lawyer.

The 1995 Steilacoom High graduate joined the reality show in its second season in 2001, lasting through 10 episodes in Australia before the other contestants voted him out.

Afterward, Brown did some modeling and enjoyed some “hey-aren’t-you-that-guy” fame. For less accomplished reality-show contestants, that might have been the extent of their time in public life.

But Brown was just on break from Harvard Law School, and after the show, he worked as an Army lawyer in the judge advocate general’s office, then as an assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle trying cases, many of them related to gangs, fraud and sexual assault.

Brown, 35, his wife Kara and his 6-month-old daughter Brooklyn are moving to Olympia.

Q: Being such an accomplished person now, what does it feel like to still have people asking you about a 12-year-old TV show?

A: I was telling my wife … last night, that at the time that I applied for and went through “Survivor” I was 23, so I was somewhat young and naive, and I knew that it would follow me, but I didn’t really think about how long it might follow me. You know, when I did the show, we filmed in 2000 and this is pre-Google days. Certainly you could find stuff about people on the Internet but it’s far different now. So it’s certainly the first thing that employers know or future employers know. So it’s fun. It was a great experience. It was over 12 years ago, but I still look back fondly on the experience.

Q: I did notice that it’s not like you have a whole lot of embarrassing photos turn up. Unlike some of your fellow contestants, I think you seem to have avoided too many embarrassing situations. And you turned down “Playgirl” (afterward).

A: Yeah. There are a few photos, probably, of me looking rather haggard and beat up. I was very careful about (not) doing something that would embarrass my grandmother. That was always my standard, so that seems to have served me well.

Q: Did you know you might go into public life and have that in the back of your mind?

A: No, not really. I mean, I’ve always had an interest in government and policy work and politics, but at the time I did the show, I was in law school; I had taken a semester off to do the show. And then I was going into the Army after that, and I knew at the time I wasn’t going to have a career in the Army, but I wasn’t sure what I would do next or anything like that. So I certainly didn’t envision I’d be where I am now, and doing the sort of public stuff that I do.

Q: Tell me about what you did in the Army. You were in Iraq, right, in 2005?

A: Yeah. I spent a year in Baghdad, with the 3rd Infantry Division. I did mostly criminal prosecution and criminal defense in the Army, a little bit of family law sprinkled in. I was stationed all over, first in El Paso, Texas, at Fort Bliss, where I was doing mostly criminal defense work, and I deployed and did criminal defense in Iraq. I came back and prosecuted at Fort Lewis for the last year of my career.

Q: Do you think the “Survivor” skills will help you at all in the governor’s office?

A: You know what that whole process taught me a lot about: myself, in terms of my patience, my priorities. The hardest part about going through “Survivor” is being away from your friends and family, so you certainly learn to prioritize those things. But I don’t think there’s much comparison between a reality TV show and the work that the governor’s doing and the stuff that I’ll be doing on his behalf. The whole process of not only the show but also the after-portions of the show, where you learn to interact with a lot of different people and go through a lot of interviews – some of that has some substantive value, in terms of the work that I’m going to be doing.

Q: What luxury item would you take with you to Olympia?

A: I took a Frisbee on “Survivor,” which at the time seemed like a completely foolish thing to do. And there are a lot of restrictions they give you in terms of what you can bring. People always say, why don’t you bring a toothbrush? Because we can’t. Little things like that. And the Frisbee actually proved itself to be very useful. We used it as a plate almost every day. We only threw it like once. What would I bring to Olympia? Well, I’m bringing my family, which is great. My parents and brother are not too far away, too, so it’s good to have them close by for help. God, I wish I could put an espresso machine in my office. My sense is I’ll be working a lot.

Q: Working for (U.S. Attorney) Jenny Durkan, do you have any sense of her thoughts on marijuana and what she’s going to do when we get our first pot stores?

A: I don’t. You know, it’s really interesting, because it’s still a federal crime. And it was never a big priority of that office anyway, and what’s legal now we would never prosecute anyway on the federal side – simple use, possession, that was never something that we prosecuted. We prosecuted large-scale importers or large-scale growers, which is still illegal both on the federal and state side. But I don’t know what Jenny’s going to do, and I think ultimately that will be the president’s decision along with the attorney general, Eric Holder. My sense is that if the federal government was going to do something to stop or interfere with what Washington state is doing, they would have done it earlier. But who knows?

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826

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