Jay Manning, who resigned in June as Gov. Chris Gregoire’s chief
of staff, says he is ready to charge back into work as a private
lawyer, after spending the summer hiking and mountain biking
throughout the Northwest.
Manning, 53, a native of Manchester in Kitsap County, returned
today to his old law firm, an environmental practice that now bears
the name Cascadia Law Group. One thing to know about Jay is that
environmental issues have always been a central part of his
Jay took some time to talk with me today about his reasons for
leaving state government and his hopes for the future.
“I had sort of run out of gas,” he confessed. “Although others
disagreed, I thought I was not performing as well as I should be,
such as my ability to solve problems.”
He said he was beginning to worry about his financial condition,
with a son in college and retirement staring him in the face. It
was a factor he mentioned in a going-away e-mail to his staff.
“There was nothing dire there,” he told me, “but it was a
Although it may be a cliché, it seems to me that Jay was also
thinking a great deal about his family life. His wife, a teacher,
had been doing double-duty: keeping the home fires burning while
going to work every day. During Jay’s time in state government, his
family time was more limited.
“It was time to put myself back as an active member of the
family, and it has been so much fun to do that,” he said. “Since
July 15, I have really played outside and hung out with family and
friends. I have my energy level back.”
As he traveled about the Northwest, Jay said he has come to
appreciate the splendor of this region even more. He now lives in
Meanwhile, Manning has considered various jobs, including
prospects at environmental law firms. He settled on Cascadia Law
Group, which he believes takes a rare approach to environmental
“Unlike most firms, this one does not let themselves get
pigeonholed. In one case, they may be representing regulated
business. In another case, it can be an Indian tribe, and in
another case an environmental group. I like that they represent
Manning’s career path has helped him become a skillful
negotiator with an ability to see various sides of a problem. Most
issues are not black-and-white, he said. People on all sides have
viewpoints that deserve respect.
After graduating from the University of Oregon Law School in
1983, Manning joined the Washington State Attorney General’s
Office, where he and seven other lawyers represented the Department
When Chris Gregoire became Ecology director in 1987, Manning
became chief negotiator during three years of tough talks with the
federal government over Hanford cleanup. For a time, he went into
private law practice and served on the board of the Washington
When Gregoire became governor, she quickly named Manning to head
up the Department of Ecology, where he served for more than four
years before she asked him to become her chief of staff in October
Manning was grateful. “But for me, it sucked the energy out, in
a way the Ecology job didn’t,” he said. “I knew the chief of staff
job was hard, but until you’re sitting in that chair, you don’t
know how you’ll react to it.”
Manning says his days as a trial lawyer are probably over. He
anticipates working on management and public-policy issues, such as
controversies over water resources in Eastern Washington. He said
he would not be surprised to find himself lobbying for legislation
at some point.
He also discusses how he might help environmental groups, either
professionally or as a volunteer.
“I’m excited to work on energy efficiency, restoration of Puget
Sound and some really exciting water projects on the east side of
the state,” he said.
As Ecology chief, Manning headed up the state’s Climate Action
Team, and I was surprised that he didn’t mention that specifically
as a concern.
“I am concerned,” he told me, “but I don’t talk about it as a
climate issue. It’s about making your home and business more
efficient. You make a more comfortable place to live and your
heating bill goes down. We talk energy efficiency, and climate is
smack dab in the middle of it.”
The need to reduce greenhouse gases is clear, he said, but the
term “climate change” divides people in ways that “energy
efficiency” does not.
I asked him if “energy efficiency” conveys the appropriate sense
of urgency about a problem that has our government tied in
“That’s a good point,” he said. “My background would tend to
push me toward a strong regulatory response. But I don’t think that
is doable now.”
Does he think he’ll ever venture back into politics?
“I would never say ‘never,’ but I am really going to focus on
being successful with this firm Cascadia. I saw up close what it
takes to be governor. It is hard, and sometimes it is completely
unreasonable. There is a big personal sacrifice to be made. Right
now my focus is on this new job.”
Cascadia Law Group’s website describes the practice this
“Our clients come to us because we solve problems. We set out
first to understand each client’s objectives. We then apply our
knowledge of the law, persuasive skills, political acumen, and
creative thinking to attain those goals. We have successfully
helped our clients resolve many of our region’s most difficult
I’ve talked before about how Jay’s growing up in Kitsap County
shaped his concerns for the environment. Check out previous
comments on Waterways from
Oct. 5, 2009, and
Feb. 17, 2008. I wrote a profile about Manning for the
Kitsap Sun in February 2008.
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