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Originally published Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 4:01 PM

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Editorial: Chris Gregoire’s noteworthy tenure serving the public

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s service to Washington transcends the immediacy of political and policy fights over scarce resources.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Gov. Chris Gregoire will end her time in office with fiscal and budgetary turmoil roiling the state, and an impressive legacy of public service.

Virtually all of her second term as governor was spent slashing budgets and arguing over priorities with those who would have put the emphasis on spending or cuts in other places.

We have bluntly shared our disagreements with the governor but respect her dedication as a longtime public servant in Washington state.

She was elected governor in 2004, with no national recession on the horizon. She came to office with her own bold visions for K-12 and higher education.

Democrat Gregoire squeaked into the executive role with a scant 133 votes. By the time she ran for re-election in 2008, she won by more than 194,000 votes.

She leaves office after a career in state government that stretches back to 1969 with an entry-level job in the state Department of Social and Health Services.

After law school, Gregoire was hired as an assistant state attorney general by Republican Attorney General Slade Gorton. She would eventually be elected to three terms as AG.

Gregoire’s public service includes some noteworthy milestones for the state. In 1989 as director of the state Department of Ecology she negotiated a landmark agreement with the federal government for the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation.

Cleanup can best be described as a work in progress, and Gregoire leaves office worried state budgets will not maintain adequate funds for continued oversight.

In 1998, Gregoire led efforts that secured a $206 billion settlement with tobacco companies to be shared by Washington and other states over 25 years.

As governor, she created a Department of Early Learning that is setting academic standards for preschools and their teachers. She focused on the cleanup of Puget Sound, where much work remains.

Her administration negotiated a breakthrough water agreement for cities, agriculture, tribes and the environment on the east side of the Cascades. Gregoire invested her political capital in a gas-tax increase to maintain Washington roads.

The governor has been a strong voice on issues from same-sex marriage to expanded access to medical care and health insurance.

Gregoire has been a compassionate presence in moments of profound public sorrow, attending the memorial services for slain law-enforcement officers and the funerals of Washington soldiers killed in action.

The breadth and depth of her service to Washington is remarkable, and must be acknowledged beyond the tensions of hard economic times.

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