Michael Baumgartner - Biography
Early Years. Born in 1975 in Pullman, Michael Baumgartner is the middle son of two life-long educators. His father served nearly 40 years as a Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources Sciences at Washington State University and his mother has spent more than 30 plus years in public schools teaching kindergarten. Both of Michael`s brothers successfully battled bouts of cancer in their youth, creating a strong family commitment against the illness.
Growing up in Washington
K-12 Education. Michael started school at Guardian Angel Catholic elementary in Colton, before the family moved to Pullman. When Michael was 12 years old, his father took a year of sabbatical leave
from WSU and the family spent much of the year in western & eastern Europe and Japan, sparking a strong interest in foreign countries and diverse cultures. By the age of 35, Michael had visited more than 70 countries.
Michael attended his first two years of high-school at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane. There he earned a St. Ignatius scholarship and excelled academically before his older brother`s brain tumor caused both to return to Pullman, where he graduated high school in 1995.
Freshman Basketball at Gonzaga Prep
Scholarships to the Middle East (`94 & `99). In 1994, Michael was one of ten high-school students selected nationally for a Kerr Scholarship to spend a summer studying culture and politics in Jordan & Syria by the National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR). Later, in 1999 he was awarded a Kuwait Study Scholarship by the NCUSAR. These experiences would help lay a foundation for a professional career that would see Michael visit nearly every Arab country.
College at WSU (1995-1999). Michael enrolled at Washington State University in 1995 and graduated with a BA in Economics and minors in Math and French in 1999. At WSU, he was given a Thomas Foley scholarship and named a Stephenson scholar - an award given to the top graduates of the Honors College. Michael spent his junior year of college on exchange as a student at the ESC Chambery Graduate School of Business in France (`97-`98).
Graduating from WSU with brother
US Forest Service(Summers `96 & `97) While in college Michael worked two summers as a Forestry Sciences Aid helping conduct fire ecosystem research with the US Forest Service. During the summer of 1996 he worked in the Wenatchee National Forest and in 1997 Michael was a volunteer on a joint US Forest Service-Russian Forest Service ecosystem research team at Lake Baikal, Siberia.
Ecosystem Research with the
US Forest Service in the
Wenatchee National Forest ('96)
Volunteer work in Africa (1999-2000). After graduating from WSU, Michael spent 12 months as a volunteer with a group of Jesuit Priests in Beira, Mozambique - helping to teach university students, run social programs for children and aiding the Jesuits in their work with the mentally ill. He also coached the women`s basketball team at the local university.
Volunteer work with
children in Africa ('99)
Graduate School at Harvard (2000-2002). In 2000 Michael entered
the Kennedy School at Harvard University where he studied economic development and graduated with a Masters of Public Administration in International Development in 2002. While at Harvard, Michael also taught economics at Harvard College as a Teaching Fellow in Economics under Professor Jeff Sachs. While in graduate school, Michael also completed an internship with the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International in Nepal and participated on an agro-forestry research team in Malaysia.
Giving a speech while a student at
Early Professional Career (2002-2006). Michael entered Harvard intending to return to development work in Africa after graduation, but the attacks of September 11, 2001 motivated him to seek to use his economics training in the Middle East. He considered offers of employment from several US government agencies, but chose a position that would take him immediately to the Middle East - working as an economic development advisor in the Office of the Crown Prince of Dubai, helping to foster the creation of a `knowledge based` economy in the city-state. Later, in 2003, Michael was appointed to the position of Vice President, Strategy of i4 Communications and the US investor backed WMPN consortium seeking to fund and license a new telecom network in Saudi Arabia. From 2005-2006 Michael independently advised several Saudi business groups before returning to the Northwest to consult to US mining company Hecla on the challenges facing their gold mine in Venezuela from the government of Hugo Chavez.
State Department Officer in Iraq (2007-2008). Like many Americans, Michael watched the US invasion of Iraq with close interest and concern. By 2006, with the situation deteriorating and the country descending into a near civil-war, he felt a compulsion to serve.
Serving as a Diplomat in Baghdad ('07)
"My economic development and business career was going well, but every day I was watching countless other Americans standing up to serve their country. In 2006 I had come back to Spokane and was advising a local firm, but I felt a deep sense of loss for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. I wanted to step up and try to make a positive impact on the situation. I hadn`t played a role in how America got into Iraq, but I felt strongly that I wanted to be a part
of US efforts to help Iraq get far enough down the path to stability so that we could come home. My background in economic development meant that I was a good fit as a diplomat with the State Department."
Receiving an award from US
Ambassador Crocker ('08)
From May 2007 to June 2008, Michael served as an Economics Officer at the US Embassy in Iraq working in the Office of Joint Strategic Planning & Assessment (JSPA). During the "Iraq Surge" he played a lead role in coordinating the economic, services and political support for the Baghdad Security Plan. For his service, Michael received commendations from General David Petraeus, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and the Iraqi Prime Minister as well as additional awards from the Iraqi Government.
“Fardh Al Qanoon” Commendation
from Iraqi Government and General
Embedded Advisor to an Afghan Counternarcotics Team in Helmand Province (2008-2009). After leaving Iraq, Michael felt compelled to try and improve the situation in Afghanistan. By late 2009, there was growing concern over the situation in the country; the extremist Taliban movement was resurgent, and inefficient government services and corruption were rife. Michael took a position as a civilian-contractor employed by Civilian Police International and working as an Embedded Advisor on a US State Department funded program, supporting a Government of Afghanistan counternarcotics team in the volatile southern province of Helmand - home to more than 60% of the world`s illicit opium and a hot bed of Taliban insurgents.
Fighting narcotics in Helmland,
"Living for 7 months off base, embedded with a group of Afghan colleagues was certainly an experience I will never forget. The main focus of the counternarcotics team during that period was to support a USAID funded wheat seed distribution program. If we want to cut drug
funding to the Taliban and get poor Afghan farmers to stop growing opium, it helps to have a viable alternative crop. Of course, the best thing about my time in Helmand is that it is also where I met my fiancée Eleanor, who was working on the same program."
"The US needs to stay on offensive against Al Qaeda, but in my view, America needs to adopt a more realistic view of what can be accomplished in Afghanistan and work quickly to bring this war to an end. Also, having seen first-hand some of the situation with civilian contractors in these wars, the US should also re-think and better monitor how it is using contract implementers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, we should not be relying so heavily on civilian contractors to provide security and America must be more wary of involving a profit motive for corporations in these wars."
Working in Afghanistan along side future
Advising the Military on Economics and the Middle East (2009-2011). Since leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, Michael is honored that the US military frequently asks for his advice and expertise to help prepare troops headed into harm`s way. His business and economics background and up-close involvement with the Iraq Surge and development efforts in Afghanistan mean that Michael is
considered an expert in the economics of counterinsurgency - the effort to win hearts and minds on the battlefield. He has helped train troops across the US, from Brigade Combat Team Commanders at Ft. Leavenworth, to junior officers and enlisted Marines at Camp Pendleton. Often times, these engagements have been conducted pro bono.
Other times, Michael participates as a contracted Camber faculty member with the Leader Development and Education for Sustained Peace (LDESP) program, part of Artmy TRADOC and the Naval Post Graduate School.
Lecturing a deploying Brigade Team on
Economic Development in the Middle East
"I was first asked by the US military to lecture on economic development when I was with the State Department in Iraq and regularly broke at the Counterinsurgency Leaders Course at Camp Taji. Since then, the requests have kept coming. It will be a great day when it is no longer needed."
"There is no greater honor than having our military continue to ask me to help advise our troops on how to be most effective during their overseas deployments, particularly with regard to civilian engagement. Our men and women in uniform face enormous challenges with such bravery. It puts everything else into perspective. It is humbling to see their achievements and sacrifices, and certainly overshadows my own contribution. It is an absolute privilege to advise America`s best."
"Many of the soldiers and Marines I lecture to are on their third or fourth deployment. That is a tremendous sacrifice and a great deal of continued stress on them and their families. We need to help reward this sacrifice by bringing these wars to a close and adopting a smarter foreign policy in the Middle East."
Running for the Washington State Senate (2010). Motivated by a desire for new leadership, jobs growth, and more pragmatism in state government, Michael ran for the Washington State senate in 2010. Taking on an extremely well-funded incumbent, Michael won a very hard fought campaign by 7.5% in what turned out to be the most expensive state legislative political election in Washington history.
Serving in the Washington state Legislature (2011- ). In the Washington Senate, Michael serves on the Ways & Means Committee, the Higher Education Committee, and on the Economic Development Committee. In his first year in office, Michael reached across the aisle to help write a bi-partisan budget and sponsored major legislation that was signed into law concerning regulatory reform to reduce costs for small business and a major reform to consolidate government agencies and allow for more contracting-out of non-essential government information technology services. He also created the plan that kept college tuition from increasing for the first time in nearly 30 years and secured the funding to build Spokane's new 4-year medical school.
Governor Christine Gregoire called Michael`s reform bill the
"most significant transformation of state government in 20 years."
Governor Gregoire signs Michael's bill to reform and consolidate
state government into law
Dreams Come True - Marrying Eleanor (Oct, 2010) and starting a family. Michael and his wife Eleanor found love in an unexpected place - fighting narcotics together in Helmand, Afghanistan. They worked and lived together while embedded off-base as civilian contractors advising a Government of Afghanistan counternarcotics team and primarily focused on helping opium farmers grow wheat.
Wedding day with Eleanor ('10)
Eleanor is a native of England and a graduate of Cambridge University where she studied science (BA` 98). She is a former management consultant and international journalist. While at Cambridge, Eleanor captained the University`s Cross Country team and has since competed in numerous marathons and ultra-marathons. The couple have three children, Conrad, Roman and new baby daughter Victoria. They are the joy of their lives. The couple are active outdoor enthusiasts and ennjoy frequent hikes in the natural splendor of Washington and the Pacific Northwest.
Son Conrad at 6 weeks old ('11)
Read about Eleanor`s 200 mile run through the Sahara Desert - Mail on Sunday