With a final stamp Monday afternoon in Kelso, Lindsey Pollock completed her whirlwind tour of all 39 counties in Washington.
For each stop, the Winlock resident and veterinarian earned a stamp in her County Courthouse Pass. She is the first to complete the new program, created by the Washington Association of Counties, that began on Labor Day as a way to encourage Washingtonians to visit different parts of the state.
As a child, Pollock said her family would often stop at courthouses during road trips because they would be guaranteed a clean bathroom.
“This is a little different because I said, ‘Let’s see the courthouses and make that the vacation,’ ” she said Saturday.
Pollock, 45, first heard about the program at the Lewis County Commissioners meeting on the Monday before Labor Day. She planned to visit Pullman in Southeast Washington during the holiday, so she decided to stop by the county seats on her way up Interstate 90 and other roads to Pullman, which is the seat of Whitman County.
“I thought we’d start there and see where this mission goes,” she said.
Pollock, who runs the Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital in Winlock, usually works on paperwork at home on Mondays and Thursdays. For her passport mission, Pollock instead used those days to drive around the state. Each trip takes about 30 hours of travel, she said, so she’s been gone from home about 60 hours a week. (Her husband stays home and cares for the pets.)
She said she “didn’t bother” to keep track of how many miles she’d driven, though she estimated it was in the thousands.
On Monday, Pollock stopped at the county seats in Kitsap, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Wahkiakum and Clark counties before finishing in Cowlitz County.
“You’re the first passport I’ve stamped,” Assistant Clerk Lisa Huckleberry told Pollock on Monday in the county commissioners office.
“That’s been a common refrain,” Pollock said with a smile.
Oftentimes, Pollock is the first person to stop by the county seat with the courthouse pass, she said. The people she’s met have been friendly and eager to help her complete her goal.
Derek Anderson, communications director for the Washington Association of Counties, said Monday he was “blown away” to hear someone had already completed a passport.
After a successful campaign in April, called “I Heart WA Counties,” the association decided to continue promoting county government with the passport program, Anderson said. The goal is to get people thinking and talking about county government and its impact on their daily lives, he said.
“Obviously, we’d love for folks to stick around and stay (in the counties they visit), but we really just want people to be excited about county government, aware of the courthouses and doing a little historical exploration of our counties,” Anderson said. “Each one is unique, and we want to get folks out there to see that uniqueness.”
The program will continue indefinitely and those who turn in completed passport booklets will get a small prize, Anderson said.
Pollock typically headed out on Sunday afternoon, stayed overnight and then visited courthouses on her way home. She didn’t dawdle in the cities, she said, but enjoyed the long scenic drives through new parts of the state.
Sometimes she took detours to check out power projects throughout the state. But for the most part, she’s mission-oriented.
“The main purpose is to fill the caddy passport from the Association of Washington Counties,” she said. “I’m just passing through and basically getting a broad overview of the area and the state.”
Pollock said she was struck by how diverse the landscapes are across the state. There are parts where she was driving through sagebrush and then suddenly came upon a swath of green in the desert. And then she’d find herself back in thick forests.
When she passed through Stevens and Pend Oreille counties in the upper northeast corner of Washington, Pollock said she was surprised to hear that 200 people recently lost their jobs when a mine closed.
“It’s not a whole lot different than what we faced in Lewis County a few years ago when TransAlta closed,” she said. “Here you are at the far corner of the state and hearing similar stories.”
The adventure has also brought into focus the wide variety of perspectives on political issues across the state, such as a proposed gas tax, she said. Residents in the northern Interstate 5 corridor need less gas for daily needs than residents in the Pend Oreille county seat of Newport, for example, who need to drive to a larger city for groceries or other necessities, she said.
“Those are differences that are perhaps something to keep in mind when thinking about big policy decisions,” she said.
For those who would follow in her footsteps, Pollock said she recommends getting off the main roads to explore alternative routes. While her visits have been short, Pollock said she would like to return to some parts of the state for future trips.
So does she have a favorite part of the state? “Honestly, no. It sounds trite, but our state is so geographically diverse that nothing’s boring.”