Republican Michelle Caldier, elected in a rancorous campaign by a close margin to replace Larry Seaquist, is a political newcomer. She now represents the Key Peninsula as one of the state representatives to the 26th District.
Caldier grew up in Kitsap County, the fourth generation of her family to live there — her great-grandfather served as the first postmaster of Kitsap County. She graduated from Central Kitsap High, then received her associate of sciences from Olympic College before earning her bachelor of science and then her doctor of dental surgery from the University of Washington.
From the ages of 10 to 17, she entered into the state foster care system, largely in response to an abusive stepfather. During that time she lived in many different settings, and she credits a stable school situation for her ultimate success. She was able to stay in the same middle school and high school throughout those tumultuous times. Her junior high counselor ultimately became her high school principal, and he encouraged her to enter the Running Start program.
During dental school, as a divorced mother with a young daughter, she felt well-supported by fellow classmates, especially other single mothers. “We watched out for each other,” she said. And once she completed dental school and established her practice, she became a foster mother herself, caring for a 16 year old and then a 13-year-old daughter. There were some rocky times, she admits, but she now describes herself as a proud mother and foster mother of three beautiful daughters, a grandmother and a small-business owner.
“I believe education is the key to a better future for everyone and will support measures to fund education first and make sure children receive our first dollar, and not our last dime,” Caldier said.
Two years ago, after working for more than a decade in a dental practice serving nursing homes and volunteering to care for the underserved, she joined others to lobby the Washington State Legislature to restore funding for adult dental care for those on Medicaid. When that was successful, she was inspired to run for a seat.
Her legislative priorities are protecting the most vulnerable, prioritizing education in the state budget and efficiency with taxpayer dollars. She serves on the following committees: education, healthcare and wellness, general government and information technology.
Education is a top priority, and she notes that paying for the mandated changes will be an issue. She remains opposed to increased taxation and feels that the needs can be met by more efficient use of current funding — spending more wisely. In addition she said that with an improved economy, there is more money in the state budget.She said that transportation has been identified as high priority for the Key Peninsula and she felt she could not support the Pierce County transportation plan because it did not address the needs of her district living on the north side of the Narrows. She said she is still learning about the “buckets of money” and wants to be sure that the Key Peninsula gets some of those dollars — perhaps thinking outside the box and using more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Caldier notes that her roots are in Bremerton and Port Orchard, where she now lives. To get to know the Key Peninsula, she made phone calls from a list of voters provided by the state.
When asked how she will continue to be in touch with the concerns of the Key Peninsula, she said she has attended the Key Peninsula Business Association meetings and the Key Peninsula Community Council. She also attends local events. She encourages constituents to contact her directly.
“I always have an open door,” she said. “I am here to represent everyone. Contact me with questions, concerns or issues you think are important.”
Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her phone number is (360) 786-7802.