Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney
Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney was born to migrant farm workers. Her parents were born in Mexico and came to the United States in 1919. Phyllis grew up in the Yakima Valley where she helped her family in the fields before and after school from the age of five.
Phyllis began her career as a community activist in the Yakima Valley and in the Tri-Cities where she was the co-founder of the Washington State Migrant Child Care Centers, the Educational Institute for Rural Families and the Farm Workers Clinics. She was also instrumental in establishing statewide Child Care and Early Childhood Educational Teacher Training Programs.
Kenney was appointed to the Washington State Legislature in January 1997 where she served for 16 years in the House of Representatives. She chaired the House Committee on Community and Economic Development and Housing and also chaired the Committee on Higher Education for seven years. She served on the Ways and Means Committee, the Labor & Workforce Development Committee, and the House and Senate Joint Committee on Economic Development and International Relations chaired by the Lt. Governor. She served on the Washington State Economic Development Commission and was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Governor’s Aerospace Council and the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.
Phyllis has always been a champion for higher education, leading the way in sponsoring and supporting programs and funding that have helped many students to get an opportunity to achieve their education dreams. In 2005 Kenney sponsored House Bill 1794 to allow branch campuses to offer four-year degrees. She also sponsored House Bill 1079 that allowed undocumented students to go to college with in state tuition and was instrumental in in getting the REAL Hope Act (also known as the Dream Act) passed in 2014. HB 1096 created the Opportunity Grants, a program that helps provide training for low income students in high demand fields. She also was instrumental in the development of the I-BEST program that helps limited English speaking students learn a trade while also learning English. Both of these programs have been recognized nationally. President Obama has recognized the I-BEST as a model program for the nation.
Kenney sponsored landmark legislation to create the Building Communities Fund, which provides grants to underserved communities for projects that help revitalize their community. Additionally, she has sponsored legislation and supported funding to provide housing for farmworkers, low-income families, foster children and the homeless.
Phyllis is a former small business owner and has served on local, state and national boards and commissions regarding education, economic development and national and global health . Phyllis was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. She also serves on the Washington GovernorsUniversity Board. She has been presented with numerous awards and commendations on the state and national level.
On March 9, 2017 Phyllis was presented the Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney Award by the Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council at the 2017 Annual Awards Dinner. Previously known as the Champion Award, the Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney award will be presented annually to an outstanding supplier diversity advocate - an employee/representative from a public agency member of the Council - for their exemplary contribution to the community, the Council, supplier diversity and supplier development.