After smoke loomed on seattle’s horizon for the two summers prior to this one, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is making her Department of Natural Resources (DNR) a more visible force. Elected in 2016, she secured $50 million from the Legislature this year to fund fire prevention efforts, including hiring more full-time firefighters and proactively treating forests. She also oversaw the new 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan and the 10-year Wildland Fire Protection Strategic Plan—and shared fire prevention tips in a lively Twitter PSA in which she danced with Smokey Bear in front of a DNR helicopter to the music of pop band Panic! At the Disco.
Franz is building a reputation for addressing rural and urban interests, finding avenues for the DNR to create rural jobs (her recently launched Rural Communities Partnership Initiative has drawn more than 80 proposals from communities seeking opportunities to use DNR resources) and building affordable housing on DNR land. In August, Franz announced her intention to run for reelection; the Democrat seems well-positioned to make her case to eastern and western Washington residents alike.