State Rep. Glenn Anderson is always on duty

April 26, 2011

By Janelle Kohnert

Glenn Anderson is a Republican representative serving his constituents in the Washington State Legislature.

Oh, you already knew that?

How about this: Anderson wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every day, takes care of his two German shepherds, Frisco and Ramses — “I like my dogs, they’re very understanding,” he said — conducts business on his phone and via the Internet with the East Coast and then, finally, makes the commute from his home in Fall City to Olympia.

Rep. Glenn Anderson listens to testimony at a committee hearing, Jan. 25. Photo courtesy of the House Republican Caucus

On the hour-and-20-minute drive he gets in the mood for his legislative work by listening to Bonnie Tyler and ZZ Top.

At 8 a.m., Anderson arrives at his office in the Capitol and almost immediately heads out again, grabbing a few chocolate Easter eggs.

“People think it’s about bipartisan politics,” he said. “It’s not. It’s about sugar.”

He smiles.

His first morning duties usually lure him to a meeting at any of the three committees on which he serves: Education; Education Appropriations and Oversight; and Technology, Energy and Communications. During each two-hour committee meeting, Anderson is actively engaged.

With his laptop computer open, he reviews committee materials and responds to emails from constituents — about 80 on a slow day, and near 500 on a day when a serious bill is up for discussion. Anderson does his best to respond to all emails from constituents, especially the ones who do their homework.

It’s similar to the way he views dealing with the lobbyists that roam in and out of his office daily.

“My reputation is, ‘If you’re going to approach Glenn, you better have done your homework,’” he said. “Everyone comes in here asking for something, but what’s in it for my constituents?”

And with 11 years of legislative experience serving in the House of Representatives, Anderson has become skilled at serving his constituents.

“There’s a lot of sucking up going on, and sometimes it can be really annoying,” he said of lobbyists. Given his reputation, Anderson says people have learned.

“Yeah, bull-shitting me is not the best course of action,” he said.

On March 10, the 8 a.m. House Education Committee heard a bill that would attempt to eliminate the opt-out system used for students’ AIDS education courses in favor of an opt-in system to empower parents. Anderson makes a point of quietly sneaking from his seat to the committee staff desk to request statistics on how effective AIDS education has been at preventing the spread of the disease in Washington state. He wants to be sure that every bill he supports is effective.

Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, serves on the House Education Committee as well as the Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee with Anderson, and has known him for three years.

“It’s nice to have a partner to work with on education issues,” Dammeier said. “We don’t always see eye to eye on educational issues, but he’s a great guy to bounce things off of and to talk strategy with. He’s a very independent thinker.”

On days without 8 a.m. committee meetings, Anderson often heads to the House Floor or to the Republican caucus room to discuss, debate and decide on bills to support or oppose.

If there’s no 10 a.m. caucus, Anderson may find himself in meetings with constituents or lobbyists. On March 10 by 10:15 a.m., he was settled into a meeting at his office table tackling questions such as, “How do we keep the state economically sustained?” with regard to taxes that aren’t being paid by agriculture businesses.

The message on a sign decorating one corner of his office seems impossible: “Keep it simple.”

The rest of his hallway-shaped office is filled with encouragement as well. Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” hang on a wall opposite a picture of the Chinese symbol for integrity and Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins.

“People give me shit that I’m a Gandhi Republican,” he remarked. His language is brisk.

Anderson’s 10 a.m. meeting is followed by an 11 a.m. appointment with six Bellevue College students who were laid off during the recent economic crisis and visited Anderson to encourage him to prevent cuts to programs like WorkFirst, which helps parents get back on their feet through state aid and worker retraining.

He encouraged each student to share his or her story from lay-offs to college degrees, and assured them he would try to protect effective retraining programs like WorkFirst, if possible.

“When you’re trying to better yourself, we shouldn’t be making the system harder,” he told them. “If there’s a way I can be helpful … let me know. That’s a role I’m supposed to play.”

After such mid-morning meetings Anderson has a lunch break, followed by two sets of two-hour committee meetings at 1:30 and 3:30. The House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee, on which he is the ranking minority member, keeps him late on Wednesdays with a 6 p.m. meeting time.

But Anderson doesn’t mind the late nighters, since ensuring basic K-12 education to all children is one of the most important parts of his job.

“Once people have that skill to learn, anything’s possible,” he said. “Education is a passion of mine.”

Committee meetings that end at 8 p.m. aren’t the worst of Anderson’s late nights. When the House is trying to push bills through before they’re considered dead, they usually have about four days per session that begin with floor debates and consideration at 10 a.m. and drag on until 2 or 3 a.m.

“Some idealogical issue will come up and the only way to stop something, from a minority point of view, is to talk it to death,” he said as one tactical example.

Anderson is described by fellow legislators as a relentlessly honest individual, and that trait garners respect from his constituents and his colleagues.

“I’ve never believed you should wear different faces for different audiences,” Anderson said. “Your word is your bond.”

He believes it’s most important for him to be “truthful, genuine and well-informed. All the cleverness in the world is short-lived.”

He remains genuine even when his constituents pay respects to his work in strange places, like the frozen food aisle at QFC.

One Sunday night, 20 minutes before the start of “Desperate Housewives,” Anderson made a QFC ice cream run in a weekend-inspired sweatpants-and-denim-jacket outfit. He was approached by a woman and her two children.

Anderson said he was thinking, “All I want is my ice cream. I’ve had two glasses of wine,” but the woman thanked him for the effort he’s put into acquiring more funding for K-12 education.

Anderson considers this a humbling part of his job.

“All of a sudden, for 135,000 people you are one voice,” he said. “If I ever fell under the illusion that this job made me someone, I would quit.”

On any given day, Anderson has two major reasons why he comes to work. The first is when cooperation with other legislators pays off.

“When you’re working with another legislator and … you’ve been having these conversations and giving each other information, then all of a sudden it clicks,” he said. “You try to satisfy their general interests, then they try to satisfy yours and you have something to show for it.”

Anderson sees emotions get in the way of work when legislators avoid the real issues in favor of the issues pitched by organized interests that support the status quo.

“It’s easy to be angry … but swearing at the TV set never solved anything,” Anderson said. “We actually have to listen to each other and come to an agreement on what’s the best thing to move forward.”

Besides cooperation, Anderson loves seeing the groups of middle school visitors in the Capitol Building.

“It never fails. One of those young kids will ask you, ‘Why do you want to do this?’“ Anderson said.

He always answers, “One day, one of you guys will do this.”

Janelle Kohnert was a reporter for the WNPA Olympia News Bureau. Comment at

Legislators reconvene  for special session

State Rep. Glenn Anderson and other lawmakers returned to the Capitol for a special session to tackle the $5 billion hole in the 2011-13 budget, after the regular session ended in anti-climactic fashion April 22.

Legislators planned to reconvene April 26 to hammer out a budget agreement between the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. Representatives proposed a $4.4 billion cut to state spending. Senators called for a $4.8 billion trim. The chambers could clash on proposed cuts to education funding and social service programs.

Gov. Chris Gregoire called legislators back to complete negotiations on the budget and other issues, including the state construction budget and workers’ compensation reform.Though special sessions technically last 30 days, Gregoire called for both chambers to reach a quick resolution on the issues.

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