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October 21, 2011 at 10:17 PM

State Sen. Scott White of Seattle dies at 41


State Sen. Scott White

State Sen. Scott White was found dead Friday at Suncadia Resort in Roslyn, Kittitas County, where he was participating in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 leadership conference.

White, 41, was a Seattle Democrat.  State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, confirmed on Friday that Sen. Scott White had been found dead in his hotel room.

There were no details surrounding the death immediately available, but friends and colleagues said it was not suspicious.

“It’s very confused at this point,” Murray said. Several people were at a dinner with White on Thursday night, including Randy Hodgins, vice president of external affairs for the University of Washington.

White walked into the restaurant and was waved over to a table where several friends were seated.  He seemed perfectly fine, Hodgins said.

Hodgins said he noticed White was not around during the morning on Friday, but figured he left early. “We’re just devastated,” Hodgins said. “He was so well liked.”

King County Councilman Larry Phillips said White did not appear for scheduled events Friday morning.

“It’s a real loss. It’s really hard. … Scott was a tremendous individual, a wonderful husband and father, friend and colleague. He’s going to be sorely missed by  a lot of people,” Phillips said in a telephone interview Friday night.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said he was never afraid to tackle difficult problems.

“Scott was a dedicated public servant and champion of important issues in Olympia,” she said. “…I found him to be an absolute pleasure to work with, and a legislator who served his district and the entire state well. He had a bright and promising future ahead of him. My family and I will keep Scott and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a news release that he was stunned to hear of  White’s death.

“Scott was a colleague and a friend, a rising star in the Legislature, and a champion for his district and for King County.

“Scott was always dedicated to public service. At the King County Council I watched as Scott, through persistence and hard work, rose from a position as a policy analyst to become our chief of staff.

“Scott’s sense of purpose led to his election first to the State House of Representatives and then to the State Senate, where I came to rely upon his leadership to provide the means for us to save bus service in King County. Scott had a vision, and he delivered.

“I grieve tonight along with Scott’s family, his wife Alison and their two young children, and his many friends in the 46th District who recognized as I did his qualities of vision and leadership. He will be deeply missed.”

Anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman opposed a bill by White to extend stadium taxes to fund housing and the arts. The two testified at the same hearing this year, but Eyman said there was no personal animosity between them, as with some other liberal politicians. Nonetheless, Eyman  nicknamed Senate Bill 5958  “The Latest Example of Why Politicians Can’t Be Trusted on Taxes Act.” It would have continued a half-cent sales tax in restaurants that was no longer needed to fund stadium construction debt.

Eyman was shocked to hear of White’s death. “No way. I thought he was so young,” he said.

State Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said White sat right in front of him on the Senate floor.  They worked together on a Highway 520 planning group and the Senate Higher Education Committee.  As recently of this week, they talked together about an op-ed piece they were co-authoring. “He just had a level headedness to him, you don’t often see,” Tom said.

 “He was a smart guy, really worked Olympia well. For as long as he’d been there, he had a hell of an impact,” Tom said.

White was a graduate of Western Washington University and later earned a master of public administration degree from the University of Washington.

On his campaign website, White offered his own biographical information. He said he took a job with the State of Washington after college and worked on growth, management and health-care issues and the state budget

“After a few years of working on state issues in Olympia, I accepted a position with the Metropolitan King County Council in Seattle. While working full-time, I earned my Master of Public Administration degree,” he wrote.

White was promoted eventually becoming chief of staff for the King County Council where, in addition to working on civil rights, growth management, and community development, he managed labor relations and government affairs for the council, he wrote.

White also taught public policy to graduate students part-time at the UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs.

 In 2008, White won election to the state House of Representatives. Then in 2010, he joined the state Senate, where, according to a news release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, he assumed a leadership position right away.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown called White “a trusted colleague and beloved friend.”

“He was an extraordinarily talented leader and an accomplished legislator,” she said in a news release. “Scott worked tirelessly to represent the values of his constituents and he took seriously the trust that his Caucus colleagues placed in him,” she added.

Calling White “one of our youngest and most talented colleagues,”  Murray said, “We have lost a part of our future. This is an enormous loss of massive magnitude. His future was full of promise and the capacity to help so many.”
“White was a champion for transit and transportation solutions, a dogged advocate for schools and kids, and a champion for the environment,” according to the release from the Senate Democratic Caucus. “But as much as he was devoted to public service, his first love and top priority were his children, and his wife Alison.”

Comments | More in Government | Topics: obituary, Scott White, Seattle


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