Meet 'First Mike'
We are seated in the Governor's mansion-Mike Gregoire, his aide Dennis Clark, and I. I'm drinking coffee. They are drinking Welch's Sparkling Grape.
This is the story of how Mike Gregoire became "First Mike." His father farmed in North Dakota, the Grand Forks area, but came west to Everett to work in a cabinet shop when farming wouldn't support a family. He had a common growing-up job, a paper route, and an uncommon one for us, working at Everett Fish. Mike played football at Everett High School. When he was a senior, Mike Price was a junior and Dennis Erickson was a sophomore. The Everett High Seagulls did well in football!
He graduated from Everett in 1963 and went to the University of Washington. Planning to teach history, Mike student-taught at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, but Uncle Sam had a different idea. During finals week of his senior year, he received his draft notice. Instead of going through a graduation ceremony, he reported to Fort Lewis.
The army and Mike decided he would attend Officer Candidate School in field artillery. Training was spent at Fort Sill, Okla. and Fort Bliss, Texas, becoming an air defense officer. He served our country in Vietnam in l970-71 in the Mekong Delta. In April 1971 after returning to Everett, he sent out resumes for a teaching job in the area. Then he and a buddy back-packed through Europe for three months.
Upon returning, he looked into a program for jobs for Nam vets and was referred to the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services, where there was need for a criminal fraud investigator. After working for a time investigating welfare fraud, he transferred to Medicaid fraud.
At DSHS he met Christine O'Grady, a caseworker. They married in 1975 and transferred to Spokane, where he continued fraud investigation and she went to Gonzaga Law School.
The Gregoires have two daughters-Courtney, born in Spokane in 1979, who is an attorney, and Michelle, born in Olympia in 1984, who is a student in environmental studies at Willamette University, Salem, Ore.
Mike retired in 2003 to help with his wife's campaign for governor. When asked about the stresses of campaigning, he said he didn't relish it, especially the verbal attacks on his family, but he enjoys talking to people.
He has a passion for seniors and veterans groups and wants to help where he can.
How does First Mike spend his days?
He had just returned from a Governors' Association meeting and accompanies his wife whenever he can. He reads to third grade classrooms (he has been in Sunnyside) and promotes the importance of reading and other critical learning issues. He makes certain he attends services for law enforcement and the military. He attends the Heritage Caucus every Wednesday during the legislative session because he still loves history and the impact it can play in the present.
Mike Gregoire is a friendly person to interview. His brown eyes twinkle when he smiles. He talks freely, but he also listens.
Thanks, Mike, for your part in the history of our state!
Jerri Honeyford, wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside), provides her Across our State column as a means to keep local readers informed on what is currently happening in Olympia.