Husky on the Hill: Spotlight on Sen. Steve Hobbs, ’94,’11

State senator and self-proclaimed nerd, Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens says he owes his career to a love of learning nurtured by the University of Washington (UW).

Earning a degree from the UW was a life-long goal, Hobbs says, but it was one he thought he’d never attain. After working through high school to help support his family, Hobbs earned an associate’s degree from Everett Community College. An accommodating educational transfer program opened to him the world of four-year university instruction, and Hobbs graduated from UW with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1994. He later earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance in 2011.

Since 2006 Hobbs has represented Washington’s 44th District, even while serving as a major in Washington’s Army National Guard. He is the top Democrat on the Senate transportation committee, and also serves on Agriculture; Water & Rural Economic Development; and the Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee.

When he’s not busy in Olympia, Hobbs can be found reading comics, gaming or spending time with his family. Hobbs is a father of three, and he’s been married to his wife Pam since 1995.

We took a few minutes to talk to the senator about his goals for Washington’s higher education policies over the next legislative session and about how his experience at the University of Washington helped to shape those goals.

1. What motivated you to run for office?
It sounds cheesy but there wasn’t any one thing, just a sense of public service that I’ve had since I joined the army. The sense of serving my community and working the public sector for the public good.

2. What are your legislative priorities this session?
Trying to solve the McCleary issue is a big deal. Within my own district, I’ll be focusing to ensure the needs of my constituency are being met; Capital needs and transportation issues for the people of the 44th District. We’ll have to deal with issues of mental health because of the recent lawsuit there, but I think the majority of the session will be dealing with McCleary.

3. What do you think the long-term outlook is for higher education in our state?
The past few years have been pretty good for higher education. We’ve been investing in higher education and holding tuition pretty much steady. As long as we don’t have another major recession, I think higher education will be fine. Though there are always small fights over resources each session.

4. How do you spend your time when the legislature is not in session?
I’m a big nerd. I spend my time with a group of volunteers called OrcaCon, a table top gaming convention that takes a whole year to plan. I have a podcast for it, and I love playing Splendor, Axis and Allies, and another game called Dixit-the whole family can play. I also do a lot of comic book reading. It’s an escape. I do a lot of reading in general of policy papers and analysis papers, and it’s so nice to pick up an issue of Dr. Strange, for example, and enjoy a little bit of a different universe. I started really young playing Dungeons & Dragons, and that’s just expanded. We’re going to do a table game day at the National Guard base.

5. Do you have a favorite UW memory?
I’d always wanted to go to the University of Washington, and I didn’t think I’d make it there. I came from a relatively poor family, and I had a part-time job in high school that made it hard to maintain those grades. When I finally transferred, at orientation day, I don’t think there was a moment I didn’t say to myself “I can’t believe I’m here.” I love the institution, and my hope is that we can provide the opportunity to other young people who want to go to school at UW or any of the four-year schools here.

6. What kind of an impact has your UW education had on your life?
It opened up the world for me. It gave me opportunity and hope that I can do other things. The great thing about the University of Washington and other four-year institutions is that their students come from around the world, and the friends you meet and the relationships you make are wonderful. If I could do it over again I’d try to find the opportunity to live on campus. I think I missed out. I didn’t get to go to the football games, and I regret that. I’m hoping if my son goes he’ll have the chance. Everyone who can should do that.
When I became state senator and I got to go back to the UW Evans School of Public Policy and Governance for my grad degree—and what a fantastic degree—I could use the classes I was taking at the time and apply them immediately. It’s made me a better senator for sure.

7. What advice do you have for other alumni who want to ensure that the UW will continue to have a strong future for generations of Huskies to come?
Just pay attention to what your legislature is doing. I know everyone is fascinated with the presidential race, but really the governmental institutions that affect what’s going on here, from your local schools to the University of Washington, is the state Legislature.

Sen. Hobbs addresses the Washington State Senate about a motion to adopt committee co-chairs for Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. January 27, 2014

Photo courtesy of the Washington State Senate Democrats. Sen. Hobbs addresses the Washington State Senate about a motion to adopt committee co-chairs for Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. January 27, 2014.