Rural and Southwest Washington lost a fierce advocate last week, as Mark Doumit, the executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, former state legislator and Wahkiakum County Commissioner, passed away suddenly at the age of 59.
Doumit’s family announced his death on social media on June 22, writing that he died of a heart attack the previous day.
“If you knew Mark, you’d know he possessed a marvelous, larger-than-life personality. He worked hard and played hard, and liked nothing better than to gather with family and friends. He especially loved the people of his hometown, Cathlamet,” wrote Doumit’s sister, Helen Doumit Hein.
Doumit served the 19th Legislative District in the state Legislature for 10 years, from 1996-2006. He served six years in the state House, and chaired the House Natural Resources Committee. Before his time in the legislature, he served two terms as a Wahkiakum County Commissioner.
During his time in the state House, Doumit was as an original sponsor of the Forests & Fish Law in 1999, which updated forest practices rules and protected more than 60,000 miles of streams and 9 million acres of forest. The Washington Environmental Council credited Doumit for securing the bill’s passage in the legislature.
In 2002, Doumit was appointed to fill the district’s seat in the state Senate, which was vacant following the retirement of Senate Democratic Leader and Long Beach resident Sid Snyder. Doumit quickly rose through the ranks of Democratic leadership in the chamber, and won a seat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee his first year in the body — a rare feat for a freshman that Snyder said at the time “speaks volumes about his qualifications and credibility.”
In 2003, Doumit won a special election to serve out the final year of Snyder’s term, beating longtime Pacific County Commissioner Pat Hamilton with 63% of the vote. Running unopposed, he was elected to a four-year term of his own in 2004.
By 2006, Doumit was one of the most powerful legislators in the state, serving as the vice chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Doumit was also a deputy whip for the Senate Democrats, tasked with helping to round up votes for his caucus.
But in October of that year, Doumit announced he was resigning his seat in the legislature to become the executive director of the WFPA, a trade association that represents the state’s private forest landowners. He served in that role for nearly 15 years, until his passing on June 21.
As executive director of the WFPA, Doumit was an advocate of keeping Washington’s forests healthy for the good of both the environment and the economy. Last year, he also called on the state Legislature and Congress to do more to combat increasingly devastating wildfire seasons, saying stakeholders “have a moral obligation to set the state on a better trajectory.”
In a statement on Doumit’s passing, the WFPA said his leadership “helped advance landmark legislation that affirmed the vital role of working forests in salmon restoration efforts, economic development and helping to address climate change.”
“Mark will always be remembered as a leader who brought forestry back to importance in Washington state. He was passionate and always up for an adventure,” said Court Stanley, former WFPA President.
Tributes honoring Doumit’s life have poured in from throughout the state. In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee called him a lifelong public servant who was devoted to his family and his community, and a mentor to many “who worked with both Republicans and Democrats with ease and tenacity.” He also praised Doumit’s work leading the WFPA.
“Mark was always focused on protecting natural resources, from forests to fish, for everyone,” Inslee said. “Generations of Washingtonians, who might never know Mark’s name, will benefit from his leadership on behalf of our forests.”
State Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-Longview), who currently holds the senate seat Doumit once held, said Doumit “was a problem-solver, and a leading voice for our state’s natural-resources community, someone who understood that behind every issue there are people, and that negotiation and compromise are the keys to getting things done.”
As a newly elected member of the legislature from the district Doumit once represented, Wilson said he was “delighted” to meet and get to know him. He called Doumit “something of an elder statesman for Southwest Washington.”
“Mark’s death is a tremendous loss to the 19th District community, to the state’s natural resources community, and to Olympia. He will be missed,” Wilson said.
Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz called Doumit a tireless advocate for the state’s rural communities, and said his death “will leave a void in our forestry community.”
State Sen. John Braun, the Senate Republican Leader, said Doumit “was just a really good guy. Democrats and Republicans trusted his word. He was a straight shooter. In the state capital, that is really valued.”
J.T. Wilcox, state House Republican Leader, said Doumit, a friend of nearly 40 years, “was probably the most trusted person in Olympia and the best example for Republicans and Democrats alike.” As the executive director of the WFPA, Wilcox said Doumit was “deeply involved” in nearly all important negotiations on issues involving the environment, economy and salmon recovery.
In a June 24 speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said Doumit’s life was defined by his commitment to his community.
“A stalwart supporter of our forests, fish, water and our economy, Mark was never hemmed in by Democrat vs. Republican politics. He was a friend and an ally to me, and anyone who cared about these priorities,” Herrera Beutler said.
Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Democrat representing Washington’s 6th Congressional District, said Doumit was “a leader who cared passionately about creating economic opportunity for folks in rural Washington,” as well as being a steward for the state’s environmental and economic future.
“He led with a smile and tried to build bridges whenever possible,” Kilmer said. “He touched so many lives.”
He recalled, as a freshman state representative in 2005, visiting Doumit’s office to ask for his support on a bill important that was important Kilmer’s constituents.
“Not only did I leave with his support — I left with his advice, his mentorship, and with a new friend,” Kilmer said.
The Doumit family is encouraging the public to attend a memorial for Mark on July 13 beginning at 2 p.m. at Wilcox Family Farms, 40400 Harts Lake Valley Rd., in Roy. A funeral service was held in Longview on June 29.
See obituary on Page A8.