Hilary S. Franz was sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 11 as Washington’s 14th Commissioner of Public Lands.
“As a third generation farmer and small forest landowner, I grew up with a deep connection to the land,” Commissioner Franz said. “Washington is blessed with abundant natural resources, from our forests and farmlands to our waterways. They face serious challenges from climate change, wildfire and drought. Along with these challenges, however, come opportunities to innovate and become more resilient.
“I am excited to join my 1,500 new teammates at DNR to meet these challenges and make our environment and economies stronger for our state’s present and future generations,” she said.
A key element of Franz’s campaign was her focus on wildfire prevention practices including the adequate training of wildland firefighters and preventing the diseases that create fire risks. In 2015 Washington experienced a record wildfire season with more than 1 million acres burning up across the state.
“More than 2.7 million acres of Washington’s forests are in poor health, which leaves them vulnerable to destruction from increasingly catastrophic wildfire seasons. It is absolutely critical that we prioritize improving the health of our forests and our wildfire response,” she said.
Franz, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, is a native of the Pacific Northwest and has lived in Washington for 20 years, the last 15 on Bainbridge. She served four years on the Bainbridge Island City Council, where she is credited for developing nationally-recognized environmental and energy policies and programs with diverse coalitions of public and private stakeholders.
Franz has also served on multiple state and regional boards and commissions, including the Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Board, the Puget Sound Regional Council Economic Development District Board, the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, and the Puget Sound Transportation Futures Task Force, and has worked to strengthen and protect both the environment and local economies.
Before running for the position of Commissioner of Public Lands, Franz has worked since 2011 for Futurewise, an organization formed to fight urban sprawl and protect farms and forest lands that was founded after the passage of Washington’s Growth Management Act.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a juris doctor from Northeastern University Law School.
Franz joins three other notable Bainbridge Island residents who have been elected to significant leadership posts in Olympia; Governor Jay Inslee, Supreme Court Justice Charles Wiggins and Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud.