Get to know House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox

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Video transcript:

JOHN SATTGAST: Representative Wilcox, thank you for joining me today.
REP. J.T. WILCOX: Thanks for having me.
JOHN SATTGAST: First, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in public service.
REP. WILCOX: Grew up along the Nisqually River at a farm that some people have heard of. It’s been there for 110 years now. My great grandfather started it, and I started punching the clock when I was five years old. I’ve worked in that business around the northwest, and I think learned an awful lot about the interface between government and business and the economy, and sometimes that’s good – farming has a lot of government involved in it – but a lot of times it’s painful, especially to the people that don’t really have a way of fighting back. We reached a point where I felt like I had something to offer. I thought I could do a good job in this job, and I thought that there was an opportunity to be successful. That happened eight years ago, and this honestly is the best job that I’ve ever had.
JOHN SATTGAST: You’ve been doing this for some time. What have you learned during your time in the Legislature?
REP. WILCOX: Well, I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned in the eight years that I’ve been here is a lesson that most of us learn outside this building as well: the things that you do that affect people are remembered, you should never burn a bridge, you should understand that everybody matters. Also remember that whoever you see today could show up in your life 10 years later, and there’s a reward for being honest. People respect those who will honestly communicate what’s in their heart. I really love that about this job.
JOHN SATTGAST: How would you describe your leadership style?
REP. WILCOX: You know, I have been involved in leading groups for a long time. First thing that I think you have to be willing to do is – whatever the job is, you have to be willing to do the toughest part of it. People have to see that you will be there when the chips are down. The other thing that I think I have learned over and over and over is that people respond to you and treat you the way that you treat them. That’s a standard that we all fail at sometimes, and I appreciate people that will tell me when I have let them down through disrespect or disregard in some way. I think the other thing that I really try hard to do as a leader is value honesty, and maybe value the people that will tell me the hard truth even more than the people that will give me the good news.
JOHN SATTGAST: As the leader of the House Republican Caucus, what do you hope to accomplish this session, and what will you consider success to be, both personally and for the caucus when the final gavel comes down after 105 days?
REP. WILCOX: In my job as caucus leader, you have to put the caucus goals ahead of your own, so that is probably the most important thing that I do in terms of process. I think as far as where the caucus would like to go – first of all is, where does Washington want to go? We’ve had a pretty contentious and pretty ideology-driven election, but I think that most people that live in Washington are very much in the center. I think our goal right now – because we live in a state that is not just a one-party state, but a one-party dominant state – our job is to be the conscious, to keep an eye on the operation of government – because when you have single-party government, they don’t really like to investigate themselves – make sure that we’re spending dollars responsibly, make sure that the bureaucracy is not mistreating citizens, either individually or in groups, and I think fulfill the traditional Republican role of really caring about the budget and making sure that the size of government doesn’t grow to the point where it’s damaging to people’s independence and damaging to their pocketbook.
JOHN SATTGAST: Ok, we’re going to have a little fun now for the rapid fire round. First, favorite book?
REP. WILCOX: It would have to be [History of] The Peloponnesian War. I go back to Thucydides every few years because it shows you what the consequences of chaos is, and in our time, that’s a threat. And we should be aware of it.
JOHN SATTGAST: Favorite film?
REP. WILCOX: Casablanca. How could it not be? [Laughs]
JOHN SATTGAST: Favorite quote?
REP. WILCOX: You know, I don’t have a favorite quote, but at the beginning of every session, I spend a few weeks listening to Churchill’s speeches just before and during World War II. He was so good at explaining to people in simple ways very complex things, and then asking them to help him do what they had to do, and that’s really what politicians should be good at.
JOHN SATTGAST: Your personal hero?
REP. WILCOX: I guess as close as I could get is my dad. He’s 81, his energy level is demonic, and he’s lived a very admirable life.
JOHN SATTGAST: The most cherished thing you own?
REP. WILCOX: I’m not really about things – I live on the place that my great grandfather first came to, and the fact that I have that privilege means everything to me – but I guess the thing that is most fun is, my daughter and I have spent years operating a small-scale sawmill. It is such a great counterpoint to politics, maybe that’s my favorite thing.
JOHN SATTGAST: Best president?
REP. WILCOX: Wow. You know, historical figures are good and bad, so I’m glad that you said “best,” not “perfect.” You know, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and my first vote was for Reagan. So I’d say maybe Reagan, Eisenhower, George Washington and, of course, Lincoln.
JOHN SATTGAST: Best legislator, past or present?
REP. WILCOX: There’s so much talent in this place, and as a caucus leader, it would be a huge mistake for me to point out one best legislator. [Laughs]
JOHN SATTGAST: What would you like your legacy to be as House Republican Leader?
REP. WILCOX: You know, as Leader, you don’t get a signature piece of legislation. You have to give that idea up. I’ll go back to what I said earlier – I would like people to remember me as someone who told the hard truth when it was necessary, listened even when it was hard, and shared his heart and taught other people to do that.
JOHN SATTGAST: Representative Wilcox, we appreciate you being with us, and thank you for your time.
REP. WILCOX: Thank you very much, John.