|Ruth was born and raised in North King County. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Washington and went on to get a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
Ruth’s career began as a management intern with the U.S. Department of Labor. She first worked in Washington, D.C. but was reassigned to Seattle to help start up a new regional office for the Employment and Training Administration. She worked for the Department for 15 years helping to establish and monitor employment and training programs in Region X. Her last position was Deputy Regional Adminstrator for the Employment and Training Administration in Washington and Idaho.
Over the next s15 years, Ruth served on many boards and commissions, including the King County Commission on Children and Youth, the Lake Forest Park Human Services Commission and the Washington Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect which she chaired. She also chaired the Center for Human Services Board for several years, and was active in Shoreline Rotary.
After many years of involvement in the League of Women Voters, Ruth was elected vice president of the State League and led the League’s citizen lobbying effort in Olympia. It was in this capacity that she became intrigued with the state legislative process.
In 1998, Ruth ran for the legislature for the first time. She was appointed vice chair of the Children and Family Services Committee, and then chair in 2004. She currently serves as chair of the Early Learning and Children’s Services Committee, reflecting the legislature’s increased focus on early learning. She also serves on Ways and Means and the Education Appropriations Committee.
Ruth’s primary focus over the past twelve years has been on issues related to children and families, including sponsorship of legislation to provide education stability for children taken out of their homes, helping them to stay in their own schools. Under her leadership, child welfare caseloads have been reduced from 32 in 1999 to 18 cases per caseworker today. Last year, Ruth sponsored HB 2106 which requires the Children’s Administration to implement performance based contracts – which have dramatically improved outcomes for children in a number of other states. She continues to fight for resources for children in foster care, and for services that will help keep children safely in their homes.
Over the past four years, Ruth has concentrated on efforts to improve early learning, sponsoring the bill that created the Department of Early Learning and the public-private partnership Thrive by Five. She has also led efforts to support parents and caregivers to help their young children get a strong start. She sponsored legislation to implement voluntary home visiting programs for very high risk parents which have evidence based results – including a 50% reduction in child abuse and neglect.
Ruth has sponsored and passed major legislation in other areas as well, including drug sentencing reform, truck safety and drop-out prevention and re-engagement. With the support of prosecutors, law enforcement, judges, defense attorneys and treatment providers, a major drug sentencing bill passed which reduced sentences for non-violent drug offenders and invested the savings in drug courts and drug treatment. As a direct result of this legislation, the number of non-violent drug offenders in prison has declined dramatically as more people receive treatment in their own communities.
Truck safety has been another issue of concern during Ruth’s legislative career. As sponsor of the Maria Federici bill, Ruth worked to assure that vehicles secure their loads before driving on the highway. When a close family friend was killed by a logging truck which lost its load, Ruth worked with the State Patrol, the Trucking Association, the Department of Licensing and the families of the two seismologists who were killed to draft a major trucking reform bill. The legislation establishes a safety compliance system for trucks operating within Washington’s borders. This bill has undoubtedly prevented many accidents caused by trucks operating in violation of the state’s safety requirements.s
Throughout her legislative career, Ruth has served on the Appropriations and now the Ways and Means Committee, helping the House develop its budget each year. In the last two challenging budget cycles, Ruth has worked to enact reforms to improve how the state does its business, and to ensure that adequate funding is provided for education and for young, vulnerable children.
© Citizens for Ruth Kagi