MARYSVILLE, Wash. - John McCoy has decided to practice what he preaches. The executive director of governmental affairs for the Tulalip Tribes officially announced his candidacy to run for state representative for the 10th Legislative District at a special luncheon honoring Tulalip tribal elders.
McCoy, who has served as director since 1994, said two of his best friends, the late Joe DeLaCruz and Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, pointed out he was not following his own advice about getting involved in local politics - something McCoy encourages tribal members to do as he travels through Indian country.
After taking a long look at the local district picture, McCoy said he realized his friends were right. He was in a perfect position to be of assistance to the whole district. His experience building communications, transportation and utilities infrastructure on the reservation was easily translated to the community at large. His experience working at the federal, state, local and tribal levels of government provided the necessary contacts to help him get the job done.
"We've got to worry about water, we've got to worry about sewer, we've got to worry about roads ... economic development so we have a sustainable community," McCoy said. "How I do things on Tulalip will be a little different from how I would approach it at Stanwood or Oak Harbor, Coupeville or Clinton because their environment is a little different. So there would need to be some modifications to the model that I've been working on for the last six years. But it's adaptable."
Despite his philosophy and his qualifications, what finally decided McCoy to run was something his friend, and now opponent, Republican representative Kelly Barlean said.
"The incumbent made a mistake and gave me a call and said, 'I wanted you to hear it from me before you heard from anybody else, but I have to back Slade Gorton.' And that pushed me over the edge," McCoy said.
With a much broader administrative and political background than Barlean, a lawyer in Everett, McCoy said he thinks he will be perceived favorably by voters in the 10th District.
"Because of my position, I had to work with the surrounding jurisdictions and to come to an agreeable solution on issues that was a win-win situation," McCoy said.
"The perception of the folks in the county and the city is that I'm a consensus-type person. I build the trust, I build the relationships so we can resolve the issues."
McCoy's viability has been enhanced by the recent government-to-government contract forged between the Tulalip Tribes and the city of Seattle. (See story this page).
Incumbent Barlean expressed surprise at McCoy's decision to run this fall. As recently as February he said McCoy and the Tulalip Tribes had made it clear they intended to fully endorse his campaign for re-election.
Barlean, of Mexican and Arapaho descent, said his voting record on environmental issues and other matters of concern to local tribes has been outstanding and that he and McCoy had been working together amicably on local municipal issues for two years.
"I respect John," Barlean said. "He's a good man. ... It's almost ironic to see this happening. ... Usually a race is based on how an opponent is not doing the job representing the district. And I challenge him to come up with any reasons."
McCoy has made it clear he is running for his tribe, his district and for himself. After pursuing careers in the United States Air Force and then in the computer industry with Unisys, McCoy decided to return to the Tulalip Reservation in 1994 after an absence of 34 years. His wife Jeannie, also a Tulalip member, said they both knew it was time to return home and that she was thrilled her husband will be applying his experience and knowledge to help, not only the tribe, but potentially the district at large.
As for McCoy, he said the decision, after-the-fact, was really very simple. Running for the state Legislature is just one more, very natural, step in his personal and political evolution.
"It's just another aspect of life," he said. "Just part of growing up in this world."