U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer announced Nov. 9 that he will not seek re-election in 2024.
The Port Angeles native, who represents Kitsap County and worked in economic development and served in the state Legislature before being elected to Congress in 2012, released the following statement:
“Over most of the past decade, each time I boarded the plane to DC, I would email my kids, Sophie and Aven, to explain to them why I was leaving – and what I’d be working on while we were apart. When they were little, those letters were elementary. ‘This week, I’ll be working for more jobs in our region’ or ‘I’ll be fighting this week against things that might make it harder for you to have clean air or good health care.’ My letters always ended with ‘Be good. I love you.’”
His statement goes on to say that later the letters became more complicated (covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, immigration reform, and the intricacies of the congressional appropriations process). “But a common thread was I tried to communicate to them that every day, in every way, I was trying make things better for their generation – and for their country.”
In making his announcement, he also says the eight years he spent in the state legislature and 11 in the House, “I never intended for this chapter to be something I’d do for the rest of my life.”
While excited for his new chapter in life, Kilmer looked back at some of the work he’s done for the nearly 800,000 people who live in the 6th Congressional District.
Tops on his list was the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (The Fix Congress Committee).
“Back in 2012 when I was contemplating running for Congress, I had a fair amount of trepidation about joining an institution known for its dysfunction. When I decided to run, I knew that part of my focus would be…to make government work better.”
He said the committee showed that Congress can do things better when folks check their partisan agendas at the door and focus on working together. Those Democrats and Republicans were “loving critics” of Congress. They passed over 200 proposed reforms, and more than a quarter have already been implemented.
Kilmer said he has enjoyed working with nonprofits, think tanks and academics to make government work better. “And when I’m outside the institution, I’ll continue doing all I can to make things better.”
He said his core mission has been to create more opportunity for more people in more places. “Whether it’s been helping folks get broadband access, securing funding for rural ports, fighting for rural hospitals, delivering funds to address flooding, or standing up a new program (called RECOMPETE grants) to help areas facing persistent economic challenges, I’ve been honored to work for the Peninsula every day.”
Kilmer added he’s been honored to serve as a leader in the New Dems. They “are the best kept secret in politics – a group of pragmatic, problem-solving Democrats who chase impact more than headlines. Simply put, they’re focused on getting things done for the American people. Our politics could use more of that.”
Other issues he named included fixing traffic problems at Gorst, managing forests in a smarter way, getting a new veterans clinic, ensuring the federal government fulfills its trust responsibilities to tribal communities and protecting Puget Sound.
Kilmer said the job has been tough on his family. “Every theatrical performance and musical recital I missed. Every family dinner that I wasn’t there for. The distance I felt from my family for months after the events of January 6th. I am conscious that I didn’t always deliver in the way I wanted; and I hope they will forgive me for that. And I hope they know that I was really trying my best to make the world better for them.”
Other career highlights
-Teddy Roosevelt Courage Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to bipartisan reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Legislative Action Award for commitment to building bridges and making Congress work better for the American people.
-Kilmer has been a champion for investments in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, his district’s largest employer. The Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program is slated to bring $56 billion to PSNS over the next several years.
-He created a new federal program to help persistently distressed communities recover economically. The RECOMPETE Program will target $1 billion to communities around the country.
-Kilmer stood up the Olympic Forest Collaborative, which brought together leaders from the environmental community and the timber industry to work to increase harvest levels in the federal forests in a responsible manner.
– He also helped drive investments to ports in the region. That has included $9.4 million to the Port of Bremerton to replace the breakwater in Port Orchard.
-Kilmer has championed community project funding. He secured $2.5 million for Bremerton’s Quincy Square project to redevelop part of Bremerton’s downtown. And $1 million to reconstruct Port Orchard’s Bay Street above sea level to build a more resilient downtown.
-He led the charge in spurring the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to draft the Broken Promises Report, documenting the federal government’s systematic failure to meet its treaty and trust obligations to Native American tribes. He introduced historic legislation to address chronic underfunding and barriers to sovereignty faced by Indian Country. He helped fund $1.6 million for the Suquamish Tribe for affordable housing.
-Kilmer consistently championed funding for salmon recovery. He was the leader in the House in creating a new $1 billion program focused on culvert removal and replacement.
-He was one of the leaders in passing historic funding to address priority repair needs in America’s national parks.
-Kilmer has stood up for military families and veterans. He led the charge on creation of a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Silverdale. He consistently championed funding to improve military pay and benefits. For his work on behalf of military families and civilian defense workers, Kilmer was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor a civilian not employed by the Navy can receive.
-He is working to make sure all children receive a quality education and is committed to honoring promises to seniors by protecting Social Security and Medicare.
-Kilmer served in the Washington state House from 2005-07 and state Senate from 2007-12. In Olympia, he was the principal writer of the state’s capital budget, and helped author a bipartisan infrastructure package that has been credited with creating 18,000 jobs. He also led a bipartisan effort in the state Senate to balance the budget and reduce state debt.
-He has been named a Hero of Main Street by the National Retail Federation, a Congressional Champion of Youth by the Boys & Girls Club of America, and a Humane Champion by the Humane Society, among others.
-Kilmer was reelected to a sixth term in the U.S. House in 2022 and serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
-He received a bachelor’s from Princeton and a doctorate from Oxford.