Mrs. McMORRIS RODGERS. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to rise today to recognize my good friend Don C. Brunell, who has been a champion of business in Washington state for nearly 30 years, with an exceptional record of achievement at the Association of Washington Business, the fourth largest state chamber of commerce in the U.S.
Don Brunell came to the Evergreen State in 1978 from his native state of Montana to work in the forest products industry for Crown Zellerbach, combining his love of the outdoors with his interests in politics and business.
In 1981, Don was appointed to the Association of Washington Business Executive Committee and chaired the Association's Natural Resources and Environment Council until, in 1986, Don was appointed vice chairman of government affairs for AWB, and, a year later, president of AWB.
That's how we all know him, as the steady hand and leader of our business community. He has grown the organization from under 1,000 members to what is now the state's largest business advocacy organization with more than 8,000 private employers of all industries and sizes.
Under Don Brunell's 28 years of leadership, the Association of Washington Business has been designated as the state's manufacturing association by the National Association of Manufacturing and is twice recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as an Accredited Chamber with Distinction, and is currently one of just four state chambers ``accredited with distinction''
But maybe his most enduring legacy is his extensive work with Washington Business Week and through the Don C. Brunell Scholarship that has helped encourage generations of high school students with an interest in business to achieve their entrepreneurial goals.
In his role as AWB President, Don Brunell has had the honor of working with five Washington governors, including Govs. Gardner, Lowry, Locke, Gregoire and Inslee, as well as the leaderships of Speakers Ehlers, King, Ebersole, Ballard, and Chopp For hundreds of legislators, Don was the voice of experience, always looking out to protect our wonderful free enterprise system.
I want to particularly note that each Christmas since 1988, the holidays for many rural families in Washington have been a bit brighter--and the Legislative Building a bit more festive--since Don Brunell founded the Holiday Kids' Tree Program, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for needy families around the state and establishing the community tradition of a tree lighting each December in the state capitol.
Throughout his distinguished career, Don has maintained his strong belief in family, as evidenced by his marriage of 42 years to wife Jeri, children Jennifer, Carey, Erin, Don, Dan and Colleen and his 14 grandchildren; and Don has also remained committed to those serving in the U.S. armed forces, himself a veteran with 23 years of service in the U.S. Army, Montana and Washington Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve as a special forces, infantry and public affairs officer.
It is bittersweet to see such a distinguished career draw to a close, but I must acknowledge Don will retire from AWB in January 2014, making the legislative session that is drawing to a close in Washington state the last one with Don as president of the state's largest and oldest business association.
Future legislators and business leaders should draw inspiration from his steadfastness and dedication to the cause of freedom and free enterprise that was a constant during his long and honorable career.