In case there were any doubts about where Gov. Jay Inslee intends to focus his energy during the next four years, Mary Alice Heuschel sought to erase them Thursday.
"Jobs, jobs, jobs and, by the way, did we say 'jobs?'" Heuschel, the governor's chief of staff, said when she spoke at AWB's inaugural Lobby Lunch meeting of the 2013 Legislative session. "That is the over-arching goal for the next four years."
To achieve the goal, Inslee's administration will bring "fierce focus" to four areas that Heuschel referred to as buckets:
- Health care
- Economic development
- Efficient, effective and transparent government
Ted Sturdevant, the former Departmentof Ecology director who now serves as Inslee's policy director, accompanied Heuschel at the meeting and elaborated slightly on how Inslee intends to create more jobs.
"What can state government really do to impact the economy in a good way?" Sturdevant asked. It can, he said, influence the education system, and shape the regulatory environment.
Regarding the regulatory environment, a topic of keen interest to most employers, Sturdevant expressed optimism that Inslee's fresh approach might produce some breakthroughs that have eluded officials for years.
Sturdevant, a veteran of state government, said it can feel like problems are insurmountable, and that some regulatory hurdles are simply the cost of doing business.
"Obviously, we are not always going to agree about what it means to improve the economic climate or improve the regulatory climate," Sturdevant said.
Business leaders should nevertheless engage in the discussion, he said.
Inslee's selection of Heuschel, the former superintendant of the Renton School District, is evidence of the new governor's desire to bring about change, he added.
"He's hoping that by bringing the right tools and the right leaders, the opportunity for change is real," Sturdevant said.
At barely two weeks into the new administration, neither Heuschel nor Sturdevant offered much in the way of specifics about what to expect.
Heuschel did tell the audience not to expect a budget proposal from Inslee's office until after the next revenue forecast.
Sturdevant joked that he would be playing the "newbie" card for quite some time.
When asked about the timeline for filling key leadership jobs, Heuschel said Inslee's staff is working hard to make the right choices rather than "meet a deadline of yesterday."
On a personal level, Heuschel said she was surprised when Inslee asked her to be his chief of staff, and that it's been an exciting few weeks adjusting to the "firehose" of information that comes with the new territory.
"It's been quite an adventure," she said. "My definition of success has changed not only daily, but almost hourly."