Larsen begins to appoint his staff

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen has raided another Washington state congressional office for his top staff person, and tapped a senator’s aide to run local offices.

He announced Thursday that Everett native Jeff Bjornstad will be the staff chief in Larsen’s Washington D.C., office. Bjornstad has been the chief of staff for Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., for four years.

In addition, he named Jill McKinnie of Arlington as district director. McKinnie has served as the northwest Washington representative for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

In her new job, she will direct Larsen’s offices in Everett and Bellingham.

Larsen, a Snohomish County councilman, won a close race last month against state Rep. John Koster, R-Monroe, to become the next representative from the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the territory from south Everett north to the Canadian border.

Although he will be stationed primarily in the nation’s capital, Bjornstad said one reason for accepting the post is he will be involved in issues affecting his home district.

"Rick wants to hire a staff that knows the 2nd District and can provide what Rick calls Nordstrom-quality service," Bjornstad said of the clothing chain with a reputation for being customer friendly.

In addition, Bjornstad will be required to make trips to the home district, where he will be able to see his mother in Everett and father in Arlington.

Bjornstad, McKinnie and Larsen together will pick other staff members who will work both in the nation’s capital and in the district’s two offices.

McKinnie said accepting this job means she will withdraw her name from contention as a replacement for Larsen on the Snohomish County Council. She is one of numerous people who have notified the Democratic Party they are interested in finishing Larsen’s term.

McKinnie has 17 years of experience dealing with the problems of constituents both in Washington, D.C., and locally. She formerly ran the Everett district office for Rep. Al Swift, D-Wash., and the area she covers for Murray is roughly the same as the 2nd Congressional District.

"This is a very exciting opportunity because I will be helping the Larsen staff learn the ropes," McKinnie said of her experience. "There’s no handbook on how to be a (congressional) staffer."

IThe only other staff member that has been announced is Charla Neuman, Larsen’s press secretary.

Meanwhile, Larsen has been getting his district offices set up, and has been assisted by a transition team that includes former Everett Mayor Bob Anderson; McKinnie; Drew Pettus, who was a chief-of-staff for Swift; and Mike Sells, secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council.

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