EVERETT — Though George Herbert Walker Bush did not visit Snohomish County in his tenure as president, he occupies a unique spot in the community’s political history.
When Bush won election in 1988 to become the 41st president, he received a majority of votes cast in Snohomish County. No Republican candidate for president has accomplished that feat since.
“Those were the days when Republicans in the state of Washington were more moderate,” said Bob Terwilliger, a former Snohomish County auditor who was chief deputy auditor in 1988.
“They were fiscally conservative but not so conservative on social issues and they were fairly liberal on environmental issues. That’s why they were getting elected in places like Snohomish County,” he said.
Bush, 94, died Friday. Wednesday was a national day of mourning with a memorial service in the nation’s capital. A funeral service and burial will take place in Texas Thursday.
Several actions by Bush and his administration had a lasting impact on the county and Puget Sound region.
Eleven days after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, two members of the state’s congressional delegation joined Bush cabinet members on a helicopter tour of the site. U.S. Reps. John Miller, a Seattle Republican, and Norm Dicks, a Bremerton Democrat, along with their respective chiefs of staff, viewed the damage then set out to write new laws aimed at preventing another devastating accident.
President Bush, his transportation secretary and his environmental protection administrator “were open to new regulations,” recalled Bruce Agnew, Miller’s chief of staff at the time.
Congress passed and the president signed the Oil Pollution Prevention Act in 1990, strengthening EPA’s ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills. And it led to new requirements for oil tankers to be built with double hulls for safety, said Agnew, now director of the Cascadia Center for Regional Development.
The Port of Everett enjoyed a growth spurt in Bush’s tenure. In 1987, the port sold land to the U.S. Navy for development of its aircraft carrier base in Everett.
“Proceeds from the sale allowed us to develop terminals that are in use today,” said Port Commissioner Tom Stiger. “That’s created a lot of economic opportunity and jobs.”
The Boeing Co. hit a milestone with Bush in office. Workers in Everett completed two VC-25As, a military version of the 747 airliner modified for presidential transport. The planes, better known as Air Force One, were delivered in 1990. Boeing is currently building new Air Force One planes to replace that pair.
Not every Bush action was warmly received by area lawmakers.
In 1992, Congress passed but Bush vetoed the National Voter Registration Act, known as the “motor voter” bill for its mandate that states allow citizens to register to vote while applying for a driver’s license. The next year, Democratic Congressman Rep. Al Swift, who represented most of Snohomish County, introduced the same bill and President Bill Clinton signed it into law.
Though Bush did not visit the county as president, he did come while serving as vice president under President Ronald Reagan. It was in 1983 to attend the funeral of U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson of Everett.