State Senator Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch), the Washington State Legislature’s longest-serving member, won’t seek another term in the fall. Sheldon announced his retirement on the last day of the 2022 Legislative Session.
Sheldon, with roots in the timber sector and whose family are private forest landowners, grew up along Hood Canal. It was his lifelong understanding of local priorities and focus on policies that impact small-town economies that made him among the few Democrats representing a rural district.
Said Washington Forest Protection Association executive director, Jason Spadaro:
“There is a reason why Sen. Sheldon is the longest serving legislator. Throughout his tenure, he has exemplified what it means to put people before politics and doing what he believes is right for his constituents above party loyalty. Even if a person didn’t agree with Sen. Sheldon’s policy stance, you knew that it came from a place of concern and care for the communities he represented and the people of Washington. Sen. Sheldon has long been a strong voice for rural Washington, advocating effectively for forestry and salmon recovery, and their contributions to the vibrancy of natural resource communities. His ability to bring his firsthand knowledge of how to own and manage forestland to his legislative colleagues was helpful. His ability to do so while portraying the passion and purpose a sustainable land manager was invaluable. The stories he shared of growing up and raising a family on working forestland is the story of Washington itself.”
Elected to office in 1990, Sheldon has represented the 35th legislative district first as a State Representative for the first decade and then State Senator for more than two decades after. A Seattle Times article described Sheldon as having an “independent streak” and a Kitsap Sun story noted that “while he’s always run as a Democrat, he was never afraid to go against the party, even caucusing at times with Republicans.”
Between 2012 – 2017, Sheldon and then State Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) crossed the aisle and caucused with Republicans. Sheldon, Tom and about two dozen Republicans formed the bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus. The move created a functional Senate majority for Republicans. Many of Sheldon’s Democratic colleagues chafed at his actions. But Sheldon said that while he would always maintain his Democratic party affiliation, he opposed his party’s leadership stance on taxation and other issues.
Said Sheldon in his announcement:
“You really have to make a decision when you join the Legislature. Are you here to represent the interests of a political party, or are you here to represent the people who elected you? I’ve always picked the people. I know many here in Olympia were bothered by that. I’ve always been proud to be a conservative old-school Democrat, and I’ve never changed.”
Among his legislative achievements, Sheldon lists his work in the 1990s to support the forestry sector and workers impacted by the listing of the Northern spotted owl as an endangered species and the loss of timber harvests throughout the coastal areas. Sheldon also worked to protect the identities of juvenile sex abuse victims and was a strident supporter of transportation investments that helped reduce congestion and shorten commute times.
Said Sheldon in his announcement:
“The longer you serve, the more respect you have for this institution, for the Capitol Campus and for the Capitol itself…I’m going to miss this place, but I have every confidence that those who come after me will feel the same respect I do. Each of us serves only a short time in the scheme of things, but the Legislature endures.”
Sheldon officially leaves the Legislature in January 2023 when his current term expires.