Washington state House Representative Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, recently was honored as the co-recipient of the inaugural Gabrielle Giffords Award for Civility in State Government during the National Conference of State Legislators held in Seattle.
Zeiger and co-recipient state House Representative Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, were recognized for their collaboration in working with the National Institute for Civil Discourse in bringing “Building Trust through Civil Discourse” workshops to the Washington State Legislature in fall of 2013 and again earlier this year.
Zeiger said the award represents “a challenge for me to do more.”
“In order for our democratic process to function we have to get along with one another as fellow citizens,” Zeiger said. “This work is so important to me. I look forward to promoting civility in our state.”
The National Institute for Civil Discourse was founded at the University of Arizona shortly following the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords outside a supermarket in Tucson in 2011. Giffords at the time was serving in her third term as a Congresswoman representing Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. She was meeting publicly with constituents when an assailant opened fire, killing six and severely wounding Giffords and 13 others.
Because of a severe brain injury, Giffords resigned from her office in 2012.
Giffords, along with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, presented the inaugural award to Zeiger and Hunt.
It was at a panel discussion on civility at the Seattle City Club in 2013 when Zeiger learned about the NICD and its efforts to restore civil discourse at state legislatures across the U.S. Right away, Zeiger brought the civility workshop to Washington state in November 2013. Fifteen legislators participated.
Following that, Zeiger flew to Tucson where he was trained on how to facilitate future civility workshops. His first was in March 2014 in Augusta, Maine, where 40 members of the Maine State Legislature participated.
When Zeiger was first elected in 2010, he said the best piece of advice he received came from Pierce County Councilwoman Joyce McDonald.
“She said relationships are more important than policies,” Zeiger said. “I think when we understand civility rightly we are able to have real and serious debates about the issues, but at the end of the day we’re able to maintain friendships as well.”
Andrew Fickes: 253-472-0341