EPHRATA — County commissioners from Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln and Yakima counties voted Monday to appoint Quincy resident Alex Ybarra to the state legislature. Ybarra will replace outgoing Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Cle Elum, whose resignation amid a series of sexual harassment scandals was effective Monday.
Ybarra is the Quincy School Board Director, Vice President of the Washington State School Board Association, and a reliability and compliance auditor with the Grant County Public Utility District. Ybarra said Monday that he would gauge his availability for these current commitments in the coming days and would consider resigning if the legislature took up too much time.
Ybarra has also previously been employed as a rocket scientist working on cruise missiles, space shuttle hardware and mars landers.
“I think I can do some really good work not just for Grant County but also for Lincoln, Kittitas and Yakima,” Ybarra said at Monday’s meeting.
The other two candidates were Ian Elliot and Danny Stone. Stone is a wheat farmer and the former chair of the Grant County Republicans, having resigned that seat to pursue appointment to the legislature. Elliot was a former state legislator from the Puget Sound-area and was supported by Manweller in his bid for the appointment.
Following Ybarra’s appointment, Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, and Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, applauded the addition of their new colleague.
“We have a full team now,” Warnick said. “I think the commissioners made a great choice.”
Ybarra received the votes of eight out of twelve county commissioners, who had gathered from Kittitas, Lincoln, Grant and Yakima counties into the Grant County Commissioners boardroom Monday.
Ybarra plans to head quickly to the legislature, which had its first day of session Monday, and has already arranged for housing in Olympia. Though he will be given less time to prepare than a legislator elected last November, Warnick said Ybarra’s colleagues in the 13th LD will help him hit the ground running.
“We have a tradition of meeting at least once a week, the three legislators from the district,” Warnick said. “We make a point of seeing how each other are doing and bringing each other up to speed, and I’m sure we’re going to be doing that with Alex.”
Warnick said Monday that Ybarra was the first Hispanic Republican east of the Cascades to serve in the state legislature since 2009, providing important representation to a large portion of the 13th LD’s population.
Dent was similarly excited to welcome Ybarra to the House of Representatives.
“Alex is a good guy,” said Dent. “He’s a very common-sense, solution-driven individual, so I’m just tickled that the commissioners did what they did.”
Ybarra has been to Olympia previously in his role as Quincy School Board Director to discuss education issues, and Dent said this has given him a chance to get to know Ybarra both professionally and personally.
“I know him relatively well and I know he will be an asset to the state legislature,” said Dent.
Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter, one of the eight out of twelve commissioners who voted for Ybarra, said that despite the strength of each of the three candidates, it was clear who her constituents supported.
“Alex is in my district, and 100 percent of the people from my district supported Alex,” Carter said. “Everyone that knows about him says he’s amazing, he’s awesome, and that he’s very involved in the community that he’s lived in.”
Dent, Warnick and Carter all also applauded Elliot and Stone for their candidacy, saying that they could have worked with any of the candidates and that they each came to the table with their own strengths.
Though he will have to be formally sworn in at the capitol, Ybarra was informally sworn in Monday at the Grant County Courthouse. Ybarra will serve on the House Committee on Civil Rights and Judiciary, as well as the Consumer Protection and Business Committee, seats saved for him by House Republican leadership in preparation for his last minute appointment. The 2019 legislative session began Monday.
“I’m deeply humbled,” Ybarra said after his swearing-in ceremony. “Everyone has been giving me their input and advice, and I really appreciate that. It’s my turn to do the work now.”