I was raised in Yakima and spent almost half my life there before moving to the Tri-Cities in the late 1980’s, where I’ve lived ever since. My parents, Gordon and Imogene Eisfeldt, moved from the Midwest to Yakima when I was three years old. I've always considered that a special gift because it introduced me to the Pacific Northwest, which has been a wonderful place to live and raise my family. As a child, my upbringing was in a happy, middle-class environment. My parents sacrificed a great deal while our nation was at war, and we five kids were the beneficiaries. I graduated from Davis High School in 1968. The 60's and early 70's were turbulent years for our nation. The assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Bobby, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. were devastating. The Vietnam War was raging on and young men I grew up with, boys really, were being drafted. It was also the unraveling of Watergate with President Nixon resigning in disgrace.
My mother was the Director of Nursing at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. My father served our country in World War II and was permanently injured while on active duty. After his honorable discharge from the Army, he later became the owner/operator of Gordon’s Heating in Yakima. My parents did not shy away from sharing their views on what was going on in our country. I’m certain their unabashed determination to defend what they believed in, whether I agreed with them or not, is what sparked my interest in the political debate that still fuels my passion today.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University in 1975, my first work experience was interacting with women in the correctional justice system. But after a three-month work study program at the Purdy Treatment Center, the women's prison in Gig Harbor, I realized it wasn’t a good match for me. My first real job was for Yakima County in the Human Services Department. Bill Buckles and Steve Hill were my mentors, two men I have tremendous respect for. The job involved the administration of state funds that would flow through the county for services to help the developmentally disabled. I worked with a citizen’s advisory board appointed by the Yakima County Commissioners.
Seven years later I wanted a new career challenge, and a friend recommended I read the book, "What Color is Your Parachute." It’s a great guide for starting or changing career paths and it’s still in publication today. Television reporting immediately piqued my interest. I did some informational interviews with the television stations in Yakima and I remember meeting with Jim Lewis. At the time he was a local TV anchor and state representative. My interest in politics also influenced my thoughts about trying to break into television in my early 30’s, which is a late start by TV standards. I felt reporting on local news events would give me the opportunity to learn about the issues and meet the decision makers. Since I worked for the county, I had my eye on a County Commissioner seat. I admired the three commissioners at the time: Graham Tollefson, Chuck Klarich and Jim Whiteside.
After considerable persistence, KAPP-TV, the ABC affiliate in Yakima offered me a part-time job as the host of a daytime, dialing-for-dollars program called The Noon Show, which ironically aired at 11:30am. From there, I eventually worked my way into the newsroom, first as a reporter, then as an anchor. Over a 30-year television career I would develop skills as an interviewer, reporter, producer, videographer, anchor, News Director and ultimately Station General Manager. I worked at KAPP-TV for five years before moving to the Tri-Cities where I worked for KNDU-TV (NBC affiliate) for 25 years.
I’ve lived and worked almost my entire life in the two most-populous communities in our region. This up-close, working knowledge of life in the Yakima Valley and Columbia Basin has provided me with unique insight into the challenges or obstacles many people have to overcome on a daily basis. When you factor in my extensive experience chronicling and reporting the news in Yakima and the Tri-Cities for nearly three decades, it has given me a knowledgeable and diverse perspective on critical concerns our communities face. I believe this hands-on education and self-awareness can now be used to help influence change and make positive decisions at a Congressional level.
While staying neutral in the political arena, I found involvement in citizen advisory board memberships a significant and fulfilling way to actively participate to my community. Over the past decade, I served on the Board of Directors for the Yakima Chamber of Commerce, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, TRIDEC (Tri-City Development Council), Visit Tri-Cities, United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties and American Legion Youth Baseball with the Kennewick Dusters and Twin City Titans. During that time, I was the proud recipient of the United Way Volunteer of the Year Award.
Shortly after moving to the Tri-Cities I wanted to understand why children could be removed from the care of their biological parents. I volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem. I was appointed by the court to act as a representative of a child and recommend court actions that were in the best interest of the child. To be honest it was gut wrenching. After researching the living circumstances of several siblings, my recommendation to the court was that parental rights be terminated.
And speaking of children, I’m the proud mother of adult twins, Jackie Elvig and Zach Beehler. Both graduated from Kamiakin High in Kennewick and Washington State University in Pullman with bachelor degrees in Public Affairs. Jackie, and her wife Crystal, have two children, Dolly and Kasey. Jackie works as a recruiter for Amazon in Seattle. Zach, and long-time girlfriend Estelle Gwinn, live in Ballard. Zach works for an advertising agency called Add3, and ironically, Amazon is one of the accounts Zach works on.
I enjoy everything that involves the outdoors and water. I look for opportunities to go hiking, boating, camping, being on or in water and observing nature. Traveling is high on my list of activities. Mexico is my favorite destination.
As a journalist, several important factors guided my personal and professional judgment that will benefit people living in the 4th Congressional District. First and foremost, I know how essential it is to be a skilled listener. Sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. How many times have you had a conversation with somebody and you knew they weren’t really listening to you? Instead, they were typically more absorbed with thinking about what they were going to say next? We witness this kind of disjointed, politically-motivated rhetoric and posturing almost daily on cable TV. I believe to genuinely help people directly affected by an issue, you must have the patience, compassion and empathy to listen with great intent to their concerns. Skilled listeners are better equipped to then ask the right follow-up questions, look for and examine the proof and rely on facts, not fiction, to make informed decisions. We should accept nothing less from our elected officials.
Another of my unwavering principles as a journalist was to acknowledge, seek out and understand there are typically several sides to every story. As the News Director, it was one of the core beliefs behind my news philosophy, and was a constant reminder to dozens of young reporters I mentored for more than 20 years. It’s a disciplined characteristic that would bode well for elected officials to master. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for most career politicians to embrace because it’s not a standard that guides them through everyday life. I believe we should expect more from the people we choose to represent us.
As your U.S. Representative, I will encourage, expect and seek out initial and repeated feedback from people living in the 4th Congressional District affected by decisions coming out of Washington, D.C. To come to a well-informed decision to support or oppose a particular issue, I will consider multiple points of view, not just partisan banter that often serves a special interest, but does very little for those truly in need. My track record for objectivity was demonstrated for 20+ years as a News Director. I will continue to examine different perspectives and opinions before drawing any conclusions as your next Congresswoman. I don’t believe in making decisions that benefit the few at the expense of the many.
Local broadcasters should feel an obligation to serve the greater interest. During my media career, I frequently used the influence of the positions I held to help improve the lives of people in the region we served. Over the years, I’ve worked on dozens of community projects to help enhance the well-being of those in need. The TV station afforded me a platform where we could put its powerful reach to work to make a difference in people’s lives. My goal was very simple. Connect the station to events or projects that were already established and make them more successful through on-air promotion.
As the News Director then General Manager, it was my honor to spearhead projects with Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, Crime Stoppers, Voter Registration Drives, Red Cross Real Heroes, Leadership Tri-Cities, Second Harvest, Water Follies, and Buddy Check, which is a breast cancer check-up program. But without question, the most gratifying of all the events on my plate was the KNDU/KNDO Family Food Drive. It was a combination of several of the projects all rolled into one day and featured several hours of live broadcasting. What an event! I believe people in positions of power should commit to using that influence for the common good of all. It’s part of my DNA. It’s something I’m very proud of and will continue to do as your U.S. Representative.