Gov. Inslee's wife plans pea patch at mansion

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Don't call her the first lady.

"I'm Trudi," the wife of Gov. Jay Inslee tells visitors to the governor's mansion on the capitol campus in Olympia.

Trudi Inslee, 62, is still adjusting to her new role as the first lady of Washington. She's mothballed her career as a consultant to nonprofit publishers while her husband is in office.

The Inslees, married in 1972, were high school sweethearts. They lived near Yakima for 19 years before moving to Kitsap County in 1995.

Inslee clearly takes pride in the mansion as she shows visitors murals, a guest book with Harry Truman's signature, and her husband's artwork. She brings a down-to-earth informality with an easy laugh to the otherwise formal setting.

Inslee, freshly returned with her husband from Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association, sat down in her private residence for this interview - her first since becoming first lady.

Q: You have your own kitchen up here?

A: When the Lockes (then-Gov. Gary and Mona Locke) came, they turned this into a kitchen. Otherwise you'd have to go downstairs.

Q. So you cook your own meals?

A. Yes. Jay's a very easy keeper.

Q. My whole image of the first lady lifestyle has been crushed. I pictured staff doing your nails and cooking for you.

A. I do my own nails. The chef cooks only for events.

Q. Does the governor come home for dinner every night, or have you been eating alone lately?

A. Sometimes we're at events. Lots of time we're eating out of a box in a car from leftovers or we're here having grilled cheese and tomato soup, because we want it in five minutes. The first home-cooked meal we had here I actually took a picture of: Jay making himself a PBJ.

Q. What's your daily schedule like?

A. We're still figuring it out, but most often I go over invitation requests, meet with someone at the house about something of interest to them - a nonprofit concern. I go to a lot of nonprofit events, whether it's a fundraising event or meetings to educate me about their issues. It's probably going to get busier as we look ahead.

Q. What causes will you be championing?

A. That's a work in progress. I share his major passions for energy, environment. I want to promote clean energy, things that help job security and the environment. I'm not restricting myself to any one issue right now. But I don't get involved with policy.

Q. What about here at the mansion?

A. We're going to have a pea patch garden here that the community can be involved in. We're paying for people to maintain the grounds as it is. So, they can maintain edible plants as well as nonedible plants.

Q. What would you do with the food you grow?

A. Anybody could pick anything they like - take it home and have it for dinner, give it to food banks. If somebody wants to sponsor a patch for a cause, we'll look into doing that. And serve (the food) here for events. The idea would be to show people where food comes from. You want to show them that food grows on plants and not in plastic sacks.

Q. How did last weekend's National Governors Association event at the White House differ from other events you've attended there?

A. It was a sit-down dinner instead of a stand-up reception. It was what everybody would expect. It was kind of surreal, like being on a movie set. It was beautiful. Our hosts were very gracious and welcoming. Then we went back to the hotel and watched the Oscars. The spouses had lunch with (Michelle Obama) and Jill Biden at the Kennedy Center the next day.

Q. How are you adjusting to life in Olympia - the city? Do you have favorite hangouts?

A. I went to the Bread Peddler the other day. That was good. We went to Solomon's Reef. We took the grandkids to the Children's Museum. We have a membership there now, so when the grandkids come we can go there. We went to a movie. We don't have a lot of free time, but we're making the most of our free time. Jay's been bike-riding. His days are not really short. He starts early and comes home late.

Q. Does having a security detail affect your life?

A. They tell me I can do whatever I want. They just like to know about it.

Q. Take me back to Ingraham High School in Seattle. What was it that attracted you to the future governor?

A. We had a lot of fun. We went water-skiing. Jay and I were both very straight arrows. We had fun with our friends, but we followed the rules probably more than the average couple.

Q. Has he always had confidence in himself?

A. I've never been asked that. I know when he's not confident about things. He's never afraid to try things. He is confident in things he believes in - that's for sure.

Q. Does he bounce things off of you - use you as a confidante?

A. Yes, oftentimes I'll tell him what I think, and then he'll ask it another way and I'll say, "I just told you what I thought," and then he'll ask it another way and I'll say, "What part of my answer did you not understand?" We do talk about things. He likes to be the devil's advocate to himself to really understand both sides of the issues, and he welcomes people to give him their opinions. He isn't looking for yes people. He wants to know what they think.

Q. A lot of people were wondering why you were in a wheelchair at the inauguration.

A. I have knees that have been around 62 years that need some work, and that afternoon one of them gave out. I will have some work done on it one of these days.

Q. Do you make him sleep on the sofa when he's been to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation?

A. No. I've been there, but I haven't been to the cooling tanks. We weren't "downwinders," but we did live in Yakima.

Q. What kind of Washington state do you want your grandchildren to inherit?

A. I'd like them to be able to see Mount Rainier. I couldn't see it when I was growing up, and then we started being able to see it. We want a clean, wonderful state that has a healthy environment for them, because that means they'll be able to live and work here in a sustainable way.

Q. Does the governor have any thoughts of going back to Washington, D.C.?

A. You can't predict. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't plan ahead. We do this one day at a time.