Photo courtesy of Laurie Mott
First Public Lands Commissioner
“I came into politics out of
The Women’s Movement...
I have always been
motivated by injustice.”
- Jennifer Belcher
Bright and assertive, Jennifer Belcher won the top job at the Department of Natural
Resources in 1992, a position that never before had been held by a woman. As Lands
Commissioner, Belcher oversaw 5.8 million acres of public land— from forests and
wetlands, to urban properties.
“My career has not always followed the conventional path,” Belcher says today of
the diverse mix of jobs and challenges she’s faced throughout her life.
Born January 4, 1944 in Beckley, West Virginia, Belcher’s political career began
in the Washington Governor’s Office, where she served as an aide to Dan Evans and
Dixy Lee Ray from 1973 to 1979.
In 1983, she was elected to the State House of Representatives and served for a
decade. The capstone of her legislative career was pushing for subsidized daycare
and comparable pay for women in state government.
In 1980, Belcher launched her own business as president and owner of Management
Dynamics, a consulting company that advised growing businesses.
When Belcher declared her candidacy for Commissioner of Public Lands in 1992, no
woman had campaigned for the job, let alone won it. But in this election cycle,
there were two female candidates: Jennifer Belcher and Ann Anderson, a Republican
State Senator from Whatcom County.
Looking back at her tenure, the Democrat considers the protection of wildlife habitat
one of her proudest achievements. Belcher, as commissioner, also hired Washington’s
first woman State Forester.
Set to run for the post a third time, she opted out due to a family issue. “I have
really wrestled with the decision. I hate to leave anything unfinished,” Belcher
said at the time.
Today the longtime Washington resident is back in West Virginia as the founding
partner of Legacy Builders, a firm that works with executives to define and implement
their community legacy.