When the 113th Congress was sworn in last week, it was the first time in more than three decades that Norm Dicks was not among the members.
The Bremerton Democrat’s retirement capped a 36-year service to the 6th Congressional District and leaves Washington with a political legacy benefiting our state, particularly in aerospace and the environment.
Dicks was first elected in 1976 and headed straight to the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He sat on various appropriations committees for defense and environmental spending and became a master at wielding the power of the federal purse for local good.
His influence can be measured in community, environmental and economic-development projects from Neah Bay to Tacoma in his district and throughout the state.
His advocacy rescued threatened salmon runs and endangered species such as the spotted owl.
Dicks deserves credit for brokering a $162 million settlement of a large land dispute between the Port of Tacoma and the Puyallup Tribe.
Dicks looked out for this state. When the federal government was spending millions to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and other great waterways, Dicks beefed up funding for Puget Sound and for the Elwha River restoration.
His abiding commitment to Hanford nuclear cleanup and support of the Tri-City economy earned him praise as the central Washington region’s second congressman and the state’s third U.S. senator.
Dicks teamed up with Sen. Patty Murray to preserve more than 126,000 acres of wilderness on the Olympic National Forest and 19 rivers, and again to secure federal funding for the passenger-only ferry from Bremerton to Seattle.
Dicks always walked a fine line between politically moderate stances and stalwart support for military spending. He helped Boeing win a bruising contest for the $35 billion Air Force refueling tanker contract but supported, longer than he should have, two protracted and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His views on both changed in recent years and he now supports bringing troops home from Afghanistan sooner than President Obama’s plan.
Dicks’ long service, his affable and powerful influence and his leadership on issues beyond his district have left the whole state better off.