In Memoriam: Sen. Andy Hill

Consequential. That’s the word that keeps popping to mind about state Sen. Andy Hill, who died earlier this week. To say that he is gone too soon, at the age of 54, is a great understatement.

Sen. Hill won a legislative seat in 2010, soon after recovering from his first bout with cancer. He had done well in his business career, and had just stared down a deadly disease. He could have chosen a relaxing retirement.

Instead he made a pivot to public service – we’re so fortunate he did. With his leadership assets, business acumen, and positive spirit, Sen. Hill soon found himself the budget leader in the state Senate. There’s a strong argument to be made that during his brief political career, tragically cut short, he was the most consequential legislator in Olympia.

Sen. Hill was a genial man, but he had principles and he stuck to them. He believed higher taxes should be Olympia’s last resort, not its first crutch. He believed state government should fund education first, not as a slogan but an actual priority. He saw tuition hikes at our state universities as the easy way out, so he fought to not only end the increases, but actually reverse the trend and lower tuition.

In all of this, he succeeded. On the important budget questions of the day, Sen. Hill’s priorities prevailed time and again. The smart, conservative, education-focused budgets of the last few years are an important part of his legacy. Without his leadership, the outcomes might have been different.

We need more servant leaders like Andy Hill running for office. He saw public service as a way to give back, and he worked extremely hard at what is supposedly a part-time job. After his first victory, he did his part to spot other good candidates and aid their path to success.

One of the marks of a statesman is being able to disagree without being disagreeable. That was Andy Hill. For a man who negotiated deals in a high-stakes environment – and won more of those battles than he lost – he had a humble demeanor. He was respectful of those who opposed him, even when they did not return the favor. Andy had a core confidence that enabled him to do that.

In a line of work where some come across as insincere or cynical, Sen. Hill was a genuine person. He delighted in his family. He indulged his passions, including soccer. Education leader Beth Sigall wrote in tribute this week, “What made Andy all the more remarkable was that he was so incredibly down to earth. He was one of the nicest – and funniest – people I’ve ever known. And he adored his family. Some of our most memorable times were spent talking about our kids playing sports or how they were doing in school. He was always so proud of his family.”

The Seattle Times editorialized this week, “The outpouring of affection and admiration from across the political spectrum for the late state Sen. Andy Hill shows the value and, unfortunately, the rarity of his style of leadership.” As a society, we honor good people not just for their own sake, but to point the way to what we hope to become. We honor those who exemplify service as a way to remind ourselves of what is good, what is worthy. Andy Hill earned his honors, and our gratitude. Rest in peace.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.