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People in Public Service: Shelley Kneip, League of Women Voters of Thurston County

This was originally published by Thurston Talk.

Shelley Kneip of Lacey may be technically retired, but you would never guess that when you visit with her about her service on the local chapter of the League of Women Voters of Thurston County (LWVTC) and the League of Women Voters of Washington (LWVWA) state board. Kneip’s LWV activities include organizing dozens of forums for candidates seeking elected office, working on state debates, assisting with a state board shorelines study, serving on committees and more.

“I joined mainly because I had seen them appear at meetings and I knew how well the organization was respected by elected leaders,” Kneip says of why she became a league member years ago. But she didn’t just join, she soon progressed into leadership roles.

Kneip’s latest league volunteer activities are part of her story of public service in Washington in county government and nonprofit organizations.

Kneip's Long History of Public Service and Volunteering

Kneip has always been active in public service in her communities. She was a deputy attorney in the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. She advised the county commission on civil matters and handled municipal, land use, and environmental issues and litigation. She also served on the county’s canvassing board, which performs election certifications. “I sat on the canvassing board quite a few times,” Kneip says. “I loved it.”

In addition, Kneip volunteered on the Kitsap Humane Society Board, the Kitsap Sun Editorial Advisory Board, the Board of Leadership Kitsap, the United Way Board, as well with the League of Women Voters Kitsap County where she began organizing candidate forums.

After retiring, Kneip moved to Lacey in 2019. She says it was a priority to join the local chapter of the league when relocating to Thurston County. “I dove right in,” she says. “It still gives me a chance to be in the law and yet move at my own speed.”

“I knew I wanted to stay active in the league,” she adds. “I inserted myself. I started by going to coffee with the league.”

Kneip Helps the Local LWV Provide Nonpartisan Election Information Including Through Candidate Forums

The local LWV chapter was established in 1961 in Thurston County as part of the 700 state and local leagues and the national league that dates back to 1920, the same year the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote. The league’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s activities include civic education, voter registration, candidate forums, and studies. Its 501(c)(4) nonprofit entity engages in advocacy such as testifying on legislative matters.

Like its state and national counterparts, the Thurston County chapter is a nonprofit, nonpartisan political organization that “encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.” The chapter has about 160 members and is a volunteer, member-driven organization, guided by a local board of directors, where Kneip served as a vice-president. Today, Kneip represents Thurston County as a director on the state board, and remains active with the local chapter, especially with candidate forums.

The LWVTC collaborates with Thurston Community Media to offer candidate forums for persons seeking local elected offices. Kneip has participated in candidate forums for the LWV at many electoral levels over the years. “I’ve done 70 to 100 candidate forums,” she says. Last year, she helped organize a forum for U.S. Senate candidates Tiffany Smiley and Sen. Patty Murray. “It was a huge success,” she says.

More recently, Kneip helped with a forum at the Olympia Timberland Library for the November 2023 Olympia School Board general election candidates. Other forums this year included candidates for the Port of Olympia, North Thurston County School Board, Olympia mayor, Tenino mayor, Thurston County Commission, Griffin School Board and Lacey City Council.

Kneip Lends Her Expertise to LWV Shoreline Management Act Study

Both the state and local leagues study public issues designated by the membership and may develop positions from that effort. For example, this year the Thurston County LWV chapter released a “Study of Thurston Area Tribal Nations: Chehalis Tribe, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Squaxin Island Tribe.” “It’s fascinating and very educational about the history, government, sovereignty of the tribes, and we adopted a few positions from that,” Kneip says.

With her background in land use law, it’s no surprise that Kneip was tapped as a resource for the state organization in conducting its study in 2022 on the last 50 years of laws governing shorelines. “One thing about the League that I love is that before we take a position on issues, we study the issue,” Kneip explains. “I was asked to step in on a study on the Shoreline Management Act.”

“That was fun,” she adds. “I love learning.”

For more information on the League of Women Voters of Thurston County, check out this webpage.