Tana Senn appointed to the Washington Legislature

September 17, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Mercer Island City Councilwoman Tana Senn is the state’s newest lawmaker, after she was appointed to fill the 41st District state representative seat vacated by Marcie Maxwell.

The Metropolitan King County Council appointed her Sept. 9. Senn was the top choice of local Democratic Party officials to fill the vacancy created by Maxwell’s decision to join Gov. Jay Inslee’s education staff.

Since her appointment, Senn, 42, has hit the ground running, meeting with 41st District mayors, and attending local events in the district that stretches from the northern parts of Renton to the southern parts of Sammamish, encompassing Mercer Island and Newcastle, and parts of Issaquah and Bellevue.

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” she said. “I’m getting out into those communities.”

Senn joins the state legislature after a quick political ascension that began in January 2012 when she was appointed to the Mercer Island City Council. She decided to throw her hat in the ring for state representative in an effort to make a statewide difference in the issues that are important to her, she said.

With a background in communications and public policy, Senn worked with national and local nonprofits prior to joining the City Council. Before moving to the area in 2000, she was national domestic policy director for Hadassah, a national Jewish women’s organization.

After falling in love with the Pacific Northwest, Senn stayed and has since worked for organizations such as The Seattle Foundation and Social Venture Partners.

She served as a board member for the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle from 2003 to 2008. It is that experience that fuels one of her top legislative priorities – background checks for gun purchases.

“I was very involved with the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle when there was the shooting there, and just realizing the impact one gun incident can have, the ripple effects are unbelievable,” she said.

The 2006 shootings that left one dead hit close to home for Senn, as do many of her top issues, she said.

Another legislative priority, finding a way to curb DUI offenses, stems from a crash that killed some friends during high school.

“I lost four friends to a drunk-driving accident,” she said. “That was very informative in my life, and I don’t want people to have to go through that.”

Funding a statewide transportation package, that does not include Interstate 90 tolls, is also one of Senn’s top priorities.

Tolling is not a viable solution to the state’s revenue woes, Senn said. She fears it would lead to additional gridlock as drivers divert to avoid tolls on I-90.

“We need transportation revenue from something other than tolling that’s more an equitable distribution and with local options so that the cities and counties can impose their own additional fees or taxes, if they need to for their own projects,” she said.

Senn has big shoes to fill when it comes to education policy, following in Maxwell’s footsteps.

“That is intimidating. Marcie is definitely an education leader,” she said. “I’ve got some background as an education major in college, have kids in school, but I definitely have a learning curve on some of these bigger education issues.”

The new legislator said she is a big proponent of early learning though, citing her support to expand the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. That’s why she hopes she gets to work on the House’s Early Learning and Human Services Committee.

“There is such a tie between human services and education that when kids come to school hungry or if they’re facing homelessness, if they don’t have that support, then they have a hard time learning, so I think that committee is a wonderful blend of issues,” she said.

After serving in a nonpartisan post on the City Council, Senn is preparing to delve head first into a body often mired in a partisan stalemate. Her ability to listen, and seek out all sides of an issue, will be an asset, she said.

“On the City Council, we’ve increased civility and productivity, and I hope to bring both of those things to Olympia,” she said.

Senn, who intends on running to retain her position that expires in 2014, lives in Mercer Island, along with her husband, two children and dog, Buddy.

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