Mike Lowry was born on March 8, 1939, in the Whitman County town of St. John, Washington, where the Lowry family homesteaded in 1882. He graduated from Endicott High School in 1957 and from Washington State University in 1962.
Lowry began his political life as a King County Councilman in 1975 and two years later was elected by his fellow members to chair the council. He also served as president of the Washington State Association of Counties. In 1978, Lowry was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he was a member of the Congressional Budget Committee. He was re-elected four times, serving a total of 10 years. After leaving Congress, Lowry taught government at Seattle University's Institute for Public Service.
In November 1992, Mike Lowry was elected the 20th governor of the state of Washington.
Since taking office, Governor Lowry has helped steer the state out of a record $1.7 billion deficit in 1993, while taking steps to make state government more efficient and cutting government growth to its lowest level in more than a decade. He annually returns $31,000 of his own salary to the state.
At the start of his term as governor, Lowry set out an agenda focusing on "jobs, kids, and the environment." Since then, he has led efforts to bolster the economy, improve education and help kids "at risk," enhance the state's natural resources and protect the environment.
The governor's job-creation efforts have included successful trade missions to Asia, Latin America, Mexico and Canada; a more streamlined regulatory system for the state's businesses; and tax incentives aimed at encouraging companies to locate in Washington.
One job-creation measure, which exempts manufacturing companies from paying sales tax on the cost of purchasing equipment, was instrumental in bringing four major manufacturers to Washington during a four-month period in 1995 promising a $1 billion investment and creating 7,000 jobs.
Since Lowry took office, the state's unemployment rate has dropped, while more than 155,000 new jobs have been created. Washington's job growth is double the national average.
In addition, the Lowry administration has taken significant steps toward helping welfare recipients get jobs. During the one-year period ending in June 1996, a record 20,000 people on public assistance entered the workforce in Washington state twice as many as during the previous year.
Lowry also has worked for programs and funding that will better prepare students to compete in a global economy. He has been a strong advocate for education reform, and during the 1995 legislative session, fought efforts to reduce funding for basic classroom instruction. Lowry also has made higher education available to more students; in 1993 he led efforts to double the number of students eligible for the need grant financial aid program from 19,000 to 38,000. Currently, 43,000 students are served by the program.
A commitment to helping "at-risk" children get a better start toward adulthood was behind Lowry's push for legislation to reduce violence among youth, help deter runaways, increase penalties for some youthful offenders, and support more prevention and education services for children and families. In 1994, the Governor's Youth Agenda was recognized across the state as the first serious attempt to get at the roots of youth violence.
The governor also has bolstered the Washington Service Corps, which provides summer and year-round work opportunities for the state's at-risk youth. Since its inception in 1993, more than 3,000 youth have contributed more than three million hours of community service.
The governor's environmental agenda includes the successful "Jobs for the Environment" program, which has put more than 400 unemployed timber workers and others back to work repairing long-neglected watersheds at 90 sites throughout Washington.
In addition, the governor helped secure more than $110 million over the past three years for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which acquires land for wildlife conservation and outdoor recreational purposes. The program was established in 1990 at the urging of a coalition of organizations and individuals led by Lowry and former Gov. Daniel Evans. Since then, a total of $224 million has been appropriated for 386 projects.
Governor Lowry and his wife, Mary, have been married for 28 years. Their daughter, Diane, is a graduate of Western Washington University.