State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, was sworn in Wednesday to represent Washington’s 20th Legislative District.
The ceremony, held in Lewis County Superior Court, was small, with Abbarno’s wife, Holly, and two young children in attendance.
Abbarno, who came out victorious over Democrat Timothy Zahn last fall, replaces Richard DeBolt, who announced his retirement from the Legislature after 24 years in February and now returns to Lewis County to lead the Lewis Economic Development Council.
In an interview after his swearing-in, Abbarno said his focus in 2021 will largely be on infrastructure issues: water, sewers and broadband.
“I laugh when people say ‘what are some of the issues you’re most excited to tackle?’ And I say ‘sewers,’' Abbarno said. “Sewers may not be sexy or grab headlines, but they’re going to be the reason why we improve quality of life or create family-wage jobs … successful communities are built with strong bones, and our community has aging bones, aging infrastructure.”
One priority will be making more funding available to distressed counties such as Lewis County. State grants currently available to such communities, he said, require too high a match from local governments, making it more difficult for essential projects to get done.
“Piecemealing will never get the problem solved,” he said.
Abbarno also cited improved childcare as a goal, noting his work with the United Learning Center — a project in Centralia aimed at addressing the local “childcare desert.”
“Early learning, early education, is essential to ending intergenerational poverty,” he said.
The Legislature convenes Monday in a virtual session, where Abbarno will serve on the House Capital Budget Committee, Environment and Energy Committee and Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.
Abbarno resigned from his position on the Centralia City Council late last year after winning the state seat in the November general election. The attorney is a partner at Althauser Rayan Abbarno, located on downtown Centralia.