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Angel finishes legislative session, opens local office

State Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) is noticeably more self-assured after her first legislative session, and she credits the opposition party for the improvement.

“During one meeting, I was told by one of the Democrats that I was relying too much on my notes,” she said. “They said they were going to call me on it, if I didn’t stop. I said to myself that I would show them. I knew the material backward and forward, and decided that I didn’t need any notes. So I got up there, and knocked their socks off.”

After the presentation Angel said she received several compliments, from both sides of the aisle.

“The biggest surprise for me during my first session was the speed with which things did not get done,” Angel said. “We would go out on the floor and think we were going to pass a bill, but would sit there for four hours. For the first three months we were in ‘hurry-up-and-wait’ mode, and the last three weeks were like ‘race and go.’”

Angel visited Port Orchard on Tuesday, after the session’s adjournment but prior to Gov. Christine Gregoire’s announcement of when — or if — she would reconvene the Legislature to complete unfinished business.

She spent the afternoon moving into her local office, and planned to fly to Memphis for a judicial committee meeting early Wednesday.

Angel spent eight years as South Kitsap commissioner, during which time she familiarized herself with issues from across the state.

She said this breadth of experience helped her to become a more effective legislator and shortened her learning curve.

She ran for the open representative seat after the retirement of 26th District Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor). She defeated former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel in a close race, becoming the only local Republican to prevail during the 2008 election.

She was also in the minority as a commissioner, but found that politics on the state level is more complicated and more brutal. Partisanship was the rule rather than the exception, and she found some Democrats would oppose or ignore a Republican bill regardless of its contents.

Or worse, they would steal the idea for the bill and redraft it under their own name. “You don’t know how it feels to work hard writing a particular bill,” she said, “and when it comes out your name is no longer on it.”

Angel said she got along well with her district colleagues, Rep. Larry Seaquist and Sen. Derek Kilmer (both D-Gig Harbor).

She took a leadership role in her own party and earned the grudging respect of the opposition. She was summoned to the office of one senator by e-mail, who looked at her from head to toe and said “I just wanted to see who you are.”

While serving on the Local Government Committee, she built a relationship with its chairman, Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-Covington).

Angel, who supported building a Kitsap County NASCAR track as a commissioner, had forgotten that Simpson was one of the few lawmakers in Olympia to support the idea.

From this, they found they had at least one thing in common.

Angel still had to tread lightly, in recognition of Simpson’s temper.

“I treated him the same way I treated my father,” she said. “When I wanted his attention, I would slip him a note. If his face turned red, I would pull it back.”

Angel was frustrated that bills were passed without discussion, and many necessary social programs were cut.

While she co-sponsored several bills, the only successful bill she introduced is one that changed the language of state documents from “mentally retarded" to “intellectually disabled.”

“I feel that I have had a lot of personal growth over the last couple of months,” Angel said. “I am very confident with the committees I serve on, and I want to support the citizens of my district the best way that I can."

Angel’s new local office is located at 1501 Piperberry in Port Orchard, next to Blondie’s restaurant.

Hours are yet to be finalized, but the office will most likely open at 8 a.m. five days a week. For information or to make an appointment call (360) 876-5986.

Debbie Austin, who worked as Angel’s assistant at Kitsap County for six years, will manage the local office.

“We are really excited about this,” Angel said. “We haven’t seen a legislative office in Port Orchard for many, many years.”

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