Issaquah Democrat Mark Mullet joins state Senate

December 4, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen (left) administers the oath of office to state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, in the Senate chamber Nov. 30. Contributed

Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet joined the state Senate on Nov. 30 — 45 days before other freshman lawmakers convene in Olympia for the 2013 legislative session.

In a ceremony on the Senate floor, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen administered the oath to Mullet as the Democrat’s family members watched.

Mullet joined the Senate after a bruising contest against Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft to represent the 5th Legislative District — a mishmash between suburban and rural communities stretched between Issaquah and Snoqualmie Pass.

The last senator to represent the district, Maple Valley Republican Cheryl Pflug, resigned from the seat in June to serve on a state board. Sammamish Republican Dino Rossi — senator from the district in the late 1990s and early 2000s — served in the role between Pflug’s resignation and Mullet’s arrival.

Mullet joined the Senate earlier than other freshman lawmakers because Pflug resigned and state law required her successor to fill the remaining weeks in her term.

The next legislative session starts Jan. 14 as lawmakers gather in the Capitol to face another tough budget climate.

Mullet scored a leadership role in the chamber — assistant majority whip, or the lawmaker responsible for tracking legislation and lining up votes on bills.

“It’s a good job for a freshman senator because your responsibility is basically to count votes and figure out what people are thinking on different issues,” he said. “You get a chance to learn a lot about how your colleagues are thinking about things.”

Leaders assigned the novice senator to the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, Transportation Committee and, in a nod to Mullet’s former career as a Bank of America currency trader, to the vice chairman spot on the Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee.

The education post is particularly important as legislators confront the dilemma of how to fund K-12 schools despite limited resources.

The recent state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. State of Washington ordered the Legislature to fully fund basic education by 2018.

Mullet, owner of Zeeks Pizza and Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in the Issaquah Highlands, often touted business experience on the campaign trail, and said the knowledge already proved useful in conversations with other senators.

“When they hear that idea from somebody who’s just recently opened businesses, I think they give it more credit than they would from somebody who’s just repeating some line from a lobbyist,” he said.

Mullet plans to serve in the Senate and on the City Council simultaneously through Jan. 8.

The council is poised to tackle major issues in the weeks ahead, including the Central Issaquah Plan growth blueprint, a development agreement between the city and landowner Lakeside Industries, and the 2013 municipal budget.

Once Mullet resigns, council members intend to put out a call for potential successors and conduct interviews before appointing a resident to the seat.

Mullet joined the Issaquah City Council in January 2010 after running unopposed for the seat and, earlier in 2012, spearheaded a controversial plastic bag ban at Issaquah businesses. On the council, he led the Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee and served as a local representative on the Eastside Fire & Rescue board.

The experience in local government offered Mullet a lesson in how the state can help Issaquah and other cities succeed.

“You can’t solve the state’s budget problems by shifting state responsibilities to the cities, because at the end of the day, the state government is here to make it a better place to live for the residents of Washington, and you’re not achieving that goal” if cities must bear the burden to provide services, he said.

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