Sim Wilson, former state representative, dies

Simeon Robert Wilson III, who served the 10th District in the state House of Representatives for two decades, died Sunday in a Bremerton hospital due to complications from surgery.

Wilson spent his early years on Whidbey Island but later moved with his family to Marysville where he graduated from high school and eventually became owner of two newspapers, the Marysville Globe and Arlington Times.

Wilson’s father was editor of the Whidbey Island Record in Langley when Wilson was a boy. They moved to Marysville when the elder Wilson started editing the Globe.

Sim Wilson, as he was known to friends and the public, started serving his first term in the Legislature in 1973. He won election ten consecutive times, finally choosing to retire in 1992.

Mary Margaret Haugen, now the 10th District senator, served five terms alongside Wilson in the House. She remembers him fondly as a “a big influence” on her career.

Wilson was the legislative veteran when Haugen was first elected in 1984. She was most interested in education at the time, she recalled Tuesday, but Wilson guided her toward transportation issues, which are important to the district, particularly ferry-dependent Whidbey Island.

“Sim said ‘transportation’, and he was right,” Haugen said. “I’ve always been on transportation.” Today, she’s chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Legislature was less partisan in those day, Haugen recalls, and she and Wilson worked together easily. “We were able to do so much for the district,” she said. “Sim was not a very partisan person -- it’s much more partisan now.”

An old-fashioned ‘pol,’ Wilson was known to enjoy a drink or two while talking policy in Olympia. Haugen said she was never part of that crowd, but he fit in easily with the power structure.

Nor was Wilson one to hog the limelight. “We’d go to a forum and he’d say, ‘You tell’em what we did’,” Haugen laughed.

He was easy-going and hard to fluster. “I’d think the world was ending and he’s say, ‘Oh, don’t worry’,” she recalled.

Wilson maintained a busy life to the end, building a new home in Kingston in 2006 and traveling widely. “I was surprised he was 81-years-old,” Haugen said.

Wallie Funk was publisher of the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record during most of Wilson’s years in the Legislature, and he too will miss one of the 10th District’s most influential legislators.

“Sim was a good personal friend. I admired him, I respected him. He represented the district well,” Funk said Tuesday morning. “Sim really had a great concern for trying to do the right thing.”

Funk also mentioned that the political scene was less partisan in those days, and although he and Wilson didn’t always agree, “we’d share a martini together.”

“We had a good relationship,” Funk said. “And I was always able to get a straight answer out of him.”

An obituary for Sim Wilson can be found inside today’s Whidbey News-Times.

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