Lisa Devereau, director of Vashon Island Funeral Services, has filed to represent Legislative District 34 and fill the seat outgoing state senator Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island) is vacating. A lifelong islander, Devereau has entered the political process ahead of August’s primary to represent West Seattle, White Center, Burien and Vashon.
“I decided sort of late, so I’m just kind of figuring this all out,” said Devereau. “Vashon certainly needs a voice. Transportation is huge, and Sharon Nelson was especially active in that. I do also think it would be nice to have someone working class in the Senate. There are so many things we could be working on, so I think it’s just better [for everyone] to have somebody working class in their corner.”
Devereau plans to campaign on a number of issues that she believes will earn her the confidence of voters, adding that she also has personal stakes in some of the concerns pressing the district.
“Everybody’s platform seems to be gun safety and child safety related to guns. I think there’s more to that subject that I think can be looked at,” she said. Devereau lost her 22 month-old niece to a drunk driving accident last year. “For [younger generations] life’s been different. So I think we need to look at child safety from a number of standpoints.”
Asked if she is the right choice to represent the entire district, Devereau conceded that some of the region may be unfamiliar to her, but that the most pervasive dilemmas across the sound are interrelated.
“I have some connection to West Seattle. I actually attended Highline College, so I have some idea of the area, though maybe not their needs,” she said. “Burien is actually experiencing some similar issues [as Vashon], namely in the cost of living and in housing. Transportation, while it impacts Vashon especially, it also impacts West Seattle. Vashon just has a more special need with the ferries, but really, transportation impacts everyone. So hopefully I’ll be able to represent those areas,” she said.
Devereau is currently the president-elect for the Washington State Funeral Directors Association, which she has belonged to for five years. She will begin her term as president in August and will be allowed to continue serving if elected as state senator. Devereau is serving her third term as Cemetery District Commissioner for Vashon Island, which she would have to vacate if elected, although she would continue to work at least half-time at Island Funeral Services.
“So many people have been emailing, asking, ‘How can we help?’ It’s looking good so far,” she said.
Recently, Devereau was a legislative representative for the funeral directors association in Washington D.C. and said the experience convinced her to run for office.
“I just did a weekend on The Hill campaigning for legislation that affects the funeral industry and veterans. That really got me interested in seeing who was out there. They didn’t look any different than me sitting behind a desk, you know?”
Looking ahead, Devereau said that she would like to run a simple, grassroots-style campaign, as she is wary of the influence of money during elections.
“My hope is that I would like this to be less expensive because I do think we spend too much money on campaigns,” she said. “But obviously I will have to buy signs. I have somebody working on a website.” Devereau attended the Unifying for Democracy meeting to connect with islanders last weekend at the Presbyterian church and plans on engaging with constituents in as many forums as possible up until election day.
“I’m just going to meet a lot of people by getting my face out there. Next week I’m going to go to the Rotary meeting in West Seattle. I’m just trying to get out there and be at these meetings,” she said.
There are 10 other candidates that have filed to run for Nelson’s seat, including Lois Schipper, a public health nurse at Children’s Hospital Seattle, who manages the King County public health center serving White Center and Burien, and Joe Nguyen, a senior manager at Microsoft, who plans to campaign on education and cost-of-living issues. But Devereau said her background and motivation distinguish her as the best choice for voters.
“I’m very interested in pursuing this, and right now, I think changing things will take someone new to politics,” she said. “ I figure right now, I just have to get through the primaries and see how that looks. It’s exciting.”