RAYMOND - Six-term District 19 state legislator Rep. Brian Hatfield announced his resignation Tuesday. Hatfield will move to the office of the state's lieutenant governor, Brad Owen, as his legislative and community liason.
Hatfield said Tuesday that Wednesday will be his first day at his new job and his last day in the Legislature.
"The wheels are turning to find my replacement," he said Tuesday and added that the "clear front-runner" is Ilwaco native Dean Takko, currently Cowlitz County assessor.
"Brian has worked for the legislature in various capacities for the past 16 years, working his way from intern to house majority floor leader," Owen said in a press release. "His invaluable experience will be a tremendous asset to my office, particularly in working with the Legislature. I look forward to utilizing his experience in economic development, a priority of my office. Additionally, he will be responsible for community and constituent outreach."
Hatfield said he is excited about his new job, but has mixed feelings about leaving the House.
"It has been a great privilege to serve the people of my district," he said. "We've had some really great successes over the past decade, and it's tough to walk away. But this opportunity is too exciting to pass up."
Hatfield was appointed as state representative in 1994 to fill the vacancy left after Rep. Mike Reilly resigned for health reasons. He was re-elected to his sixth term this month.
"This is a great opportunity," Hatfield said of his new position. "I'll be working primarily on economic development issues, which was one of my top priorities during my time in the Legislature. Now it will be the focus of my job statewide."
He said Owen's office also does a lot of work on drug abuse prevention.
"I'll be using my experience working with legislators and on constituent case work and helping with speech-writing. This is an opportunity for a full-time job and a full-time salary," he said. "It's becoming harder and harder for people with average incomes to serve in political office. It's great that people volunteer, but I worry that the Legislature will be full of people who don't need the money."
Hatfield said his daughter, diagnosed with cancer several years ago, has been in remission for five years and his wife, diagnosed with breast cancer, is undergoing treatment and recovering. "We're on a downhll slope with that," he said.
"This is a good move for Brian," retired Sen. Sid Snyder said Tuesday. "This is a case where the demands of the Legislature are such that you can't have outside employment and still be a legislator. It's a full-time job, you're gone a lot and missing family events. I think it takes its toll. I'm sure he'll do an outstanding job for Owen, as he did for the constituents of the 19th District."
The process for formally finding a replacement for Hatfield will begin next month when precinct committee officers from the 19th District get together and select three names which will be sent on to county commissioners in Pacific, Wahkiakum, Grays Harbor and Cowlitz counties.
Takko, 54, was born and raised in Ilwaco and moved to Cathlamet after the death of his father. He graduated from Wahkiakum High School.
"This is something I've thought about over the years," he said of his possible appointment to Hatfield's seat. "I've had an opportunity to watch the Legislature over the years. Now this opportunity has come along and I decided to go for it."
Takko, who describes himself as a "moderate Democrat," was Wahkiakum County assessor for four years before moving to a job as chief deputy assessor in Cowlitz County.
"I've done a lot of volunteer work and I've been involved with the community," he said. "I pretty well understand what the district's needs are and can represent the people pretty well. I served on the Cathlamet City Council for a short time and I've been on a number of boards and commissions. I have a strong background in understanding local government which is probably where I would focus my efforts if I'm appointed to Brian's seat."