In his early 20's Jim lived and worked on a farm of about 500 acres in northern Israel, called Kibbutz Nir David. He would net fish, earning just $20 dollars a month.
Jim grew up in the small farming town of Puyallup, Washington. His father Bob was a corrections officer, and his mother Diane was a school nurse. He spent his summers working in the strawberry and blueberry fields in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. In 1978 he graduated from Puyallup High School, having served as Student Body President and attended a national speech competition representing Washington State his senior year. Jim matriculated on scholarship to Claremont McKenna College, where he studied political science and economics, and also competed in intercollegiate bicycle racing. He later transferred to UC Berkeley, where he received a BA in 1983.
Upon graduation, with no more than a couple of hundred dollars, a tent, sleeping bag and cooking utensils, he bicycled across the United States. From the east coast he traveled to Europe and the Middle East, working on a Kibbutz in Israel and in a small fishing village on the island of Crete, Greece. In Greece, Jim found work painting two large yachts used as tour boats to shuttle tourist between the port city of Agios Nicolaos and the island of Spinalonga, the last leper colony in Europe until 1957. Down to $5.00 at the time, finding a job was a welcomed opportunity, of which he was paid 1500 drachma ($15) a day, plus room and board.
After over a year of working and bicycling his way across the northern hemisphere, Jim returned stateside. At home, Jim held various private sector jobs, including the Branch Manager of a company specializing in the leasing and sale of business computers and as a regional representative for Giant Manufacturing, the world’s largest manufacturer of bicycles.
Elected to the Legislature
Jim was elected to the state legislature in 1996, serving in the minority in the State House. Seen as a rising star by his colleagues, he quickly rose to the position of Assistant Democratic Leader. In 2000, he chose to run for the Senate, replacing Senator Calvin Goings.
In the Senate, Jim was chosen to sit on the Rules Committee and was elected the Assistant Majority Whip by his party. The list of committees he has served on is extensive: Ways & Means, Transportation, Human Services and Corrections, Health and Long-term Care, K-12 Education, Higher Education and Workforce Development (Vice-Chairman), and Judiciary (Vice-Chairman).
As Chairman of the Government Operations and Elections Committee in 2005, Jim was responsible for nearly a dozen election reform bills following the Gregoire/Rossi election.
As the current Chairman of the Economic Development Trade and Innovation Committee Jim has lead the Senate agenda for economic development by focusing on the creation of new industries, such as aerospace bio-fuels and faster, more efficient computer chips. He has represented the State of Washington on trade and cultural missions to China, Taiwan, Japan and Turkey. Recently he was responsible for combining two existing state agencies into “Innovate Washington,” a single agency committed to the transfer of technology from our universities to companies in our state. Jim also spearheaded the creation of WGU Washington, the state’s first totally on-line university.
Jim is best known for his role in forming two of the most bipartisan budget agreements in state history. In 2011 as part of a coalition from the center, Jim delivered compromise on a budget that received 34 votes (out of 49), at that time considered unheard of. The following year Jim smashed that record in a daring move that temporarily turned the legislature upside down, but eventually forced an agreement that received 44 votes, with only two dissenting. Jim has received plaudits from both sides of the aisle for his independence and principled belief in bipartisan action. Although his actions have brought him animus from the partisans.
Jim is noted for his strong support of performance audits, agency restructuring and accountability measures in government. He was the first legislator in the nation to be certified as an examiner for an adjunct state agency to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. He has taught courses at the university and community college level in Organizational Assessment, Strategic Planning, and Managing in a Political and Legislative Environment.
Jim is happily married to Barbara Kastama, a former advanced placement US history teacher at Puyallup High School, Legal Consultant to the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees and current Counsel to Corr Cronin LLP. Jim is the proud father of five children, Isaac, Anna Laura (Reed College), Michael (Tacoma School of the Arts), Sarah and Rachel (Kalles Jr. High). Jim is a volunteer Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol member, avid cyclist and outdoorsman. His favorite tradition is an annual hike around Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail with his family.
Groups and Associations:
Appointed board member First Robotics, appointed member Washington State Economic Development Committee, appointed member Washington Economic Development Finance Authority, appointed member Joint Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations, appointed Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee, Chair of Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee, member American Society for Quality (ASQ), advisory board for Valley Arts United, member Eastern Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, past member Joint Legislative Task Force on Heating Ventilation and Cleaning, past member State Law and Justice Advisory Council, past member of the Joint Transportation Committee, past member Joint Committee on Military and Veteran Affairs, former board member of Community in Schools, past Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) volunteer, past member Children's Rights Council.
Honors and Awards:
Washington State Association of County Auditors Legislator of the Year Award, Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award, Washington Student Association Legislator of the Year 2010, Washington State Economic Development Association L.E.A.D.E.R Award 2008 and 2009, Washington Housing Alliance Housing Hero Award 2005, Recognition from the National Hepatitis C Institute, Appreciation from the Washington Breast & Cervical Health Program, Grand Marshal Auburn Annual Veterans Day Parade, Keynote Speaker Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, Keynote Speaker Pacific Northwest Economic Region Annual Conference