-For Discover Parkland-
Steve Kirby, Democrat, has served Parkland in the state Legislature for 12 years, and has been involved in local politics for decades. During his time in the legislature, he has served on multiple committees, passed important consumer protection legislation, and aided constituents with casework related to the Department of Social Health Services.
Kirby is a local, born and raised in South Tacoma. He bought his childhood home from his parents when he was in his early 20s, and lived there until his mid-40s. He still lives in the area today.
His interest in politics began when he was around 20 years old. A younger friend decided to run for legislature, and asked Kirby to help with his campaign. The idea surprised Kirby, but he agreed to help. He and some friends ran the campaign for about seven months, but in the end, Kirby’s friend, who he considered the better candidate, received hardly any votes.
Both frustrated and intrigued, Kirby decided to delve further into politics. He became a Pierce County Young Democrats precinct committee officer in 1972. Not much later, he was elected president of the Pierce County Young Democrats. His main interests lay in helping others run for office. It wasn’t until a meeting in 1977 that the tables were turned.
In a meeting concerning the election for the 5th district representative, Kirby asked the room who they thought they could get to run. “I looked down the table…and they were all looking at me,” Kirby said. That’s when he began to run in elections himself. At the age of 26, he was elected to the Tacoma City Council.
After years of public service, Kirby was elected as representative for the 29th district in 2000. He has since served on 11 different legislative committees in the House of Representatives.
Kirby is currently serving on the Judiciary Committee, the Business and Financial Services Committee, and the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.
“The Judiciary Committee is the busiest committee in the legislature,” said Kirby. It has more bills referred to it than any other. The Government Accountability and Oversight Committee mainly deals with government regulation of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and most recently, marijuana.
“I could not resist, I got myself appointed to that committee,” said Kirby. “We have to make up the [marijuana] industry that’s never been done anywhere in the world, basically.”
Kirby is currently serving as the chair of the Business and Financial Services Committee. The committee deals with commerce, banks and other financial institutions. Kirby’s main concern within the committee is consumer protection legislation.
Several years back, he sponsored referendum 67, which required insurance companies to pay their claims and treat policyholders fairly. Something Kirby referred to, with a hint of sarcasm, as “a novel idea.” The insurance companies spent, according to Kirby, a record $11 million to undo the referendum, but it ended up passing overwhelmingly, requiring insurance companies to pay claims promptly and fairly, or face consequences.
“They call me Representative Kirby for a reason. I vote my district,” said Kirby, who prides himself on prioritizing his constituents over partisan politics. “It’s not about being a Democrat or Republican, it’s about representing the people of my district.”
Kirby acknowledged that the 29th District of Washington is a big user of DSHS, or the Department of Social and Health Services. He puts an emphasis on casework for this very reason. He makes a point of assisting his constituents with labors and industries claims, insurance companies, and other problems or road blocks with DSHS. Kirby stated that casework is easily the most direct way legislators help their constituents.
With regards to the Parkland area in particular, Kirby stated he would like to see safer neighborhoods, an end to traffic congestion on Pacific Avenue, and further increases in consumer protection legislation.
One priority for Parkland is “just protecting working class people – making sure they get a fair shake in the scheme of things,” said Kirby.
He pointed out that six out of the last nine times he’s run for any office, he ran unopposed. A signal, he said, that “the people reward you for hard work.”