Jennifer Belcher was the initially lady to be elected Washington state’s lands commissioner. But for her, that accomplishment was just the future point she did after putting the condition at the forefront of the nation for women’s equity at state agencies.
Belcher died March 31, adhering to a extended ailment. She was 78.
Belcher blazed a path in community office environment, turning the state’s leading land administration company toward conservation. In her 10 years as a point out consultant, big achievements of her legislative occupation provided operate to establish sponsored child treatment for condition workers and equitable fork out for women in state federal government.
Together the way, Belcher attained a popularity for a get the job done ethic as ramrod as her posture. When she swept into a area or stepped to a podium, it was not her high heels or beehive updo but her riveted emphasis and assertive command that snapped persons to focus.
“The initial conference I had with her I assumed, ‘Oh my word, this is a person daunting woman.’ It was that posture of hers for starters, her hairdo, it was her total demeanor she took above the space,” remembered Chris Gregoire, who initial fulfilled Belcher when Gregoire was director of the state Department of Ecology.
Gregoire, who would rise to be a two-phrase governor of Washington, was elected attorney standard in the very same 1992 tidal wave of girls to start with elected to substantial office environment in the state. In addition to Belcher and Gregoire, Washington’s Yr of the Female saw the late Deborah Senn was elected as insurance policy commissioner and Patty Murray was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Born Jennifer Emerson Marion on Jan. 4, 1944 in Beckley, West Virginia, Belcher’s political profession commenced as a political aide in the governor’s office environment, to Dan Evans and Dixy Lee Ray from 1973 to 1979. She was elected to the Condition Home of Representatives in 1983. She represented the 22nd legislative district, which incorporated most of Thurston County, and rose to the chair of the Property Organic Assets and Park Committee.
Belcher was a transformational chief at the point out Section of Organic Sources, in whom she employed and the insurance policies she executed. She led the agency from 1993 to 2001, administering 5.8 million acres of community land.
Kaleen Cottingham, Washington’s 1st woman state forester, was place in that article by Belcher and rose to turn out to be her next in command. There, she witnessed some of the pushback Belcher dealt with, including a signal taped to a wall in a men’s lavatory at DNR: “Will the very last white person leaving the organic sources building make sure you set down the toilet lid.”
Almost nothing like that slowed her an inch, Cottingham claimed.
Belcher’s crowning achievement at DNR is broadly regarded to be her leadership in attaining a habitat conservation prepare for management of state forestlands.
It was the 1st HCP of its sort approved by the federal governing administration in the country. The prepare, a 50-12 months settlement finalized in 1997, will allow timber harvests on state land while protecting habitat for threatened and endangered species.
“She was a revolutionary,” mentioned Jerry Franklin, the eminent forest ecologist whose profession as a federal and university scientist served reveal the workings and significance of forest ecology, specially for previous expansion. “She in essence turned that agency all over, and it by no means went again.”
Martha Kongsgaard, former chair of the leadership council of the condition Puget Sound Partnership, became near with Belcher in the women’s modern society Robes, or Grand Aged Womens Network Society, a group of gals environmental leaders in Washington. “She didn’t intend to be the initially lady nearly anything, she was who she was, she observed chances and choices to get things done,” Kongsgaard said — in spite of resistance.
“Timber was king below, not queen,” Kongsgaard claimed. “She was fearless.”
Belcher’s leadership paved the way for women of all ages who came soon after her, mentioned Hilary Franz, who took business as commissioner of Public Lands in 2017. “Every time a woman can take that action out and has the courage and fearlessness and dedication to lead, particularly when she is the pretty first … she opens the new door, the new possibility, for just about every female.”
Marcy Golde, 88, a longtime forest advocate with the Washington Environmental Council, initially fulfilled Belcher in 1979. She remembered a commissioner who introduced “a degree of daylight and harmony that division wanted desperately. She wished a rule-centered method that was not just the old boys calling up and getting what they needed,” Golde stated.
Belcher also opened up the section to the general public, Golde reported, holding general public conferences in communities all more than the point out just to see what was on people’s minds.
She also listened to her personnel — and worked difficult to bring in new voices, mentioned Miguel Perez-Gibson, who just before his retirement from DNR worked less than every commissioner going back to the 1970s. In Belcher, he saw a chief who thrived in the occupation — and pushed many others to, from varied backgrounds.
“I have by no means labored more challenging in my existence than I labored for her we experienced a tempo and a rate we experienced to get things finished and get it performed proper away,” Perez-Gibson reported. “We were being hoping to make great adjust.”
Belcher declined in 2000 to operate for a 3rd term, choosing in its place to go back to West Virginia to care for her ailing dad and mom.
She rose from humble roots, ending just a single yr of university. Her mom was a homemaker and her father drove a truck for Kroger, climbing to president of Local 175 of the Teamster’s union, claimed just one of her sisters, Susan Knight, of Scott Depot, West Virginia.
Belcher created sure the family again dwelling obtained to share in the exciting of her success, Knight reported. “She included us, each individual stage of the way,” Knight explained.
“And she was the type of person, when she received a advertising, she often had her hand out backward, pulling up a person else, driving her.”
Knight claimed the six small children in the family had extraordinary moms and dads, “who often encouraged us.” Her mom was a strong feminist, and both moms and dads staunch Democrats, and environmentalists. “My mother recycled when recycling was not cool.”
Yet another sister, Barbara Miller of Marmet, West Virginia, remembered Belcher as anyone who generally had a hand out to enable any man or woman who desired it. “I lived with her as a teenager, and she advised me if you do not discover nearly anything from me I want you to find out empathy for other individuals.
“She was a distinctive human being, a sharing person” Miller mentioned. “Your state is a great deal better for her. It is greener. It is extra equitable. Since she labored for that.”
In addition to Knight, and Miller, Belcher is survived by sisters Rachelle Marion of Charleston, West Virginia Cynthia Smith of Pittsburgh and several nieces and nephews. Belcher was predeceased by her brother, David Marion, of Ripley, West Virginia, and her spouse, Larry Belcher.
The loved ones requests memorial bequests be produced to Kanawha Hospice Care, The Charleston Humane Culture, or the Character Conservancy.
A memorial is being prepared in Washington, where by Belcher questioned that her ashes be scattered, Miller said. “We will ship her again, to be in the character she beloved and fought for.”