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Senator John McCoy of Tulalip passes away at 79 years old

TULALIP, Wash., June 6, 2023—It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of former Washington State Senator John McCoy (D-Tulalip). He was 79 years old.

On April 17,2020, Sen. McCoy retired from the Washington State Legislature, after submitting a resignation letter to Gov. Jay Inslee a few days earlier.

McCoy leaves behind a legacy of steady leadership and commitment to serving his community. He brought a career in military service and years as a computer technician and business leader to his work at the Legislature, culminating in a lawmaker who effectively advanced economic development and equality of opportunity for his district. His work is characterized by tireless advocacy for Native American and rural communities, expanded access to high-quality education, and environmental sustainability.

Before McCoy became one of the longest serving Native American legislators in the state’s history, he led efforts to bring better telecommunication infrastructure to the Tulalip Tribe, of which he is a registered member. He also helped bring to fruition the Quil Ceda Village shopping, casino and hotel complex, a triumph of community that ultimately earned him the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Executive of the Year award.

During his subsequent five terms in the Washington State House of Representatives, McCoy fought for students, for the environment, for a healthy economy and for tribal communities. He sponsored policy that expanded support for students struggling with behavioral and emotional health needs, protected water rights and access, deterred wage discrimination and protected immigrant workers, and integrated comprehensive tribal history and culture education into teacher preparation programs.

After he was elected to the Washington State Senate, he led victories like the passage of the Native American Voting Rights Act to expand voting rights access in tribal communities, and passage of a groundbreaking dental therapy bill to expand dental care on reservations. He also established Native American Heritage Day, honoring tribal history the day after Thanksgiving, and got the Kelsey Smith Act signed into law, requiring wireless-telecommunications providers to provide call-location information for cell phones in emergency situations.

In a letter to his Senate colleagues on Thursday, McCoy wrote: “It has been the greatest honor to serve the people of Washington alongside you. It has been a gift to advocate for marginalized and disenfranchised Washingtonians, to lift up the voices of our sovereign tribal communities, to expand access to – and quality of – education and health care, and to do so with a team of dedicated public servants.”

McCoy was elected by his colleagues to serve as chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus in 2016, and most recently served on the Natural Resources Committee, the Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development Committee, and the Rules Committee. McCoy’s retirement will allow him to spend more time with his wife, three daughters, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


Editor’s Note: Bio information and featured picture from Washington State Senate Democrats announcement of the retirement of Senator John McCoy

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