Politics & Government

Olympia business owner appointed to fill Rep. Graham Hunt vacancy

Andrew Barkis
Andrew Barkis dcafazzo@thenewstribune.com

With less than a month left in the session, the Legislature’s newest member got a crash course in state government Tuesday.

“I don’t even know where my office is,” joked Republican Andrew Barkis.

The Pierce County Council and Thurston County Board of Commissioners appointed Barkis, 47, to the 2nd Legislative District seat vacated by Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting.

Hunt resigned earlier this month over questions about his military record.

Barkis, who lives in Lake Saint Clair in Thurston County, was one of three nominees. He is majority owner and broker of Hometown Property Management in Olympia.

Eatonville resident Amy Cruver was the top pick by Republican precinct committee officers who met over the weekend. Kerry Hooks-French of Frederickson was recommended as well.

Pierce and Thurston officials strayed from the committee officers’ recommendation by appointing Barkis over Cruver.

The deviation wasn’t because Cruver wasn’t qualified, they said before voting.

Instead, many said, they voted for Barkis in part because he is from Thurston County. The other legislators from the district are from Pierce County.

“He doesn’t burn bridges,” Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero said. “He’s always willing to reach out and work with other people.”

Barkis ran against Romero and lost for a seat on the County Commission in 2012.

“He’s a quick study,” Romero said. “When you’re in the Legislature, you have a new issue, like, every 15 minutes on some days. You have to be able to quickly process information and I think Andrew can do that.”

Pierce County Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg credited Barkis for drawing on personal experience when answering questions posed by the joint body. That ability will help him make better decisions, she said.

Barkis’ involvement as a small-business owner and volunteer with civic organizations prepared him for the role, Ladenburg said.

“He is knowledgeable on the issues and not just the process,” she said. “It’s one thing to say how things work down there, but it’s another thing to say, ‘I know the issues and therefore I can get it through the process.’”

Pierce County Councilman Jim McCune was the lone vote against the appointment. Cruver is his council assistant and was his legislative aide when he was in the state House.

McCune said he planned to follow the recommendation of the precinct committee officers, no matter who they recommended. He said he voted against Barkis because he wasn’t the top pick, not because he isn’t qualified. Barkis took the oath of office minutes after being appointed. After grabbing a bite to eat Tuesday, he headed straight for Olympia.

He will serve through November, when he will have to win the election to retain the position and serve a full, two-year term.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley