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Former state legislator Mark Doumit dies at 59

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LONGVIEW — Mark Doumit, a respected former legislator for the 19th Legislative District and advocate for Washington’s forests and rivers, died Monday at the age of 59.

Doumit spent 10 years representing the 19th District in both chambers of the state Legislature as a Democrat. Since 2006 he worked as the executive director for the Washington Forest Protection Association, the trade group representing the state’s private forest landowners.

“If they made a movie about effective legislators and called it ‘The Natural,’ Mark Doumit would have been the guy behind that story. He was just skilled at the job,” former District 19 Rep. Brian Blake said.

Doumit’s sister Helen Doumit Hein announced on Facebook Tuesday he died from a heart attack.

Wahkiakum County Commissioner Dan Cothren knew Mark Doumit long before either of them entered public office. Cothren was close friends with the Doumit family as they grew up in Cathlamet; another Doumit was the best man at Cothren’s wedding.

Cothren said he and Mark Doumit used to go on walks around Cathlamet. The two were on opposite sides of the political aisle, so the walks would often turn into debates about the issues they cared about.

“We could argue and carry on, but still come away and be friends,” Cothren said. “He cared about what was going to be good for the people, he fought hard for a lot of different things.”

Doumit served two terms as a Wahkiakum County Commissioner before entering statewide politics. He was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served from 1997 to 2002 and chaired the House Natural Resources Committee.

Doumit switched chambers in 2002 when he was appointed to fill the seat of Sid Snyder, the Senate Democratic leader who announced his retirement halfway through his term. Four years later, Doumit announced he was stepping down from the Senate to become the executive director of the WFPA.

Cindy Mitchell, public affairs director for the WFPA, said Doumit was a natural fit to lead the organization.

“Mark was very passionate about the natural resource issues and about people. He always saw the best in other people and he always sought common ground,” Mitchell said.

Doumit was one of the original sponsors of the 1999 Forest and Fish Law, which overhauled the state’s salmon recovery program by protecting 60,000 miles of streams and was considered a landmark piece of environmental legislation. The WFPA was a major stakeholder in the forests affected by the law and manages the Forests and Fish website.

Another feature of the Forests and Fish law required the creation of Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans, which would proactively manage private forest roads and limit runoff into streams. All of Washington’s forest roads are scheduled to comply with the new standards by the end of 2021.

“We can support sustainable forestry, grow our workforce, and protect the forests that are the foundation of our private and public lands,” Doumit said earlier this year while pushing the Legislature to pass a bill funding wildfire prevention.

Doumit’s sudden passing this week was followed by a series of supportive messages from many Washington politicians. Gov. Jay Inslee said his work advocating for the state’s forests would benefit “generations of Washingtonians, who might never know Mark’s name.”

District 20 Sen. John Braun called Doumit a real friend and a straight shooter. Jeff Wilson, who now represents the 19th District in the state Senate, wrote that Doumit was an “elder statesman for Southwest Washington” who helped him transition into state politics after he was elected in November.

“He understood what is at stake in the debates currently playing out before the Legislature. Not just that, but he also knew how those arguments got started, and how people’s positions had changed over time,” Wilson wrote.

Helen Doumit Hein said on Facebook her brother’s funeral will be held at 10 a.m. June 29 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Longview.

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