WALLA WALLA — After 28 years of public service, Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, told the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Wednesday that she will be retiring.

Walsh, who represents the 16th Legislative District including Walla Walla and Columbia counties and parts of Benton and Franklin counties, said she has made the decision to take her life in a new direction.

In an early bid to fill her seat, Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, announced this week that he will run for the state Senate.

Former Walla Walla County commissioner Perry Dozier announced he will be running for Walsh’s seat as well.

Jenkin has over 30 years of experience as a business owner, has served two terms in the state House of Representatives and currently serves as the ranking member of the House Housing, Community Development and Veterans Committee, according to a release.

“I just wanted to be an effective voice for the communities I serve. That is still my goal, however, I believe my experience, energy and expertise can be used most effectively for my constituents in the state Senate,” Jenkin stated in the announcement.

Walsh suffered from health issues recently. She said a heart attack last year really put her life into perspective. She decided it was time to spend time with family including her kids, parents, and loved one, as well as travel.

She will complete her term in two months, hoping to wrap up loose ends and see a younger person with high energy in her position.

Walsh has served in the Legislature since 2005. She served six terms in the House, then was elected to her seat as senator in 2017. Prior to 2005, she served as a legislative assistant.

“I’ve had the most exciting and invigorating time,” she said.

Walsh is the ranking minority member on the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee and also serves on the Capital Budget Committee.

During her career, she said, she was very proud to be part of the state Department of Early Learning, mentioning that she and Rep. Ruth Kagi made early learning a “household term” when sponsoring the Early Learning Act.

“It’s been so fascinating to see Walla Walla on the map. When I first started, I saw four wineries. It’s been exciting to watch the community flourish and grow,” said Walsh, a resident of College Place.

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.