Jennifer Belcher. Photo courtesy of Laurie Mott

Jennifer Belcher

First Public Lands Commissioner

“I came into politics out of The Women’s Movement... I have always been motivated by injustice.” - Jennifer Belcher

Bright and assertive, Jennifer Belcher won the top job at the Department of Natural Resources in 1992, a position that never before had been held by a woman. As Lands Commissioner, Belcher oversaw 5.8 million acres of public land— from forests and wetlands, to urban properties.

“My career has not always followed the conventional path,” Belcher says today of the diverse mix of jobs and challenges she’s faced throughout her life.

Born January 4, 1944 in Beckley, West Virginia, Belcher’s political career began in the Washington Governor’s Office, where she served as an aide to Dan Evans and Dixy Lee Ray from 1973 to 1979.

In 1983, she was elected to the State House of Representatives and served for a decade. The capstone of her legislative career was pushing for subsidized daycare and comparable pay for women in state government.

In 1980, Belcher launched her own business as president and owner of Management Dynamics, a consulting company that advised growing businesses.

When Belcher declared her candidacy for Commissioner of Public Lands in 1992, no woman had campaigned for the job, let alone won it. But in this election cycle, there were two female candidates: Jennifer Belcher and Ann Anderson, a Republican State Senator from Whatcom County.

Looking back at her tenure, the Democrat considers the protection of wildlife habitat one of her proudest achievements. Belcher, as commissioner, also hired Washington’s first woman State Forester.

Set to run for the post a third time, she opted out due to a family issue. “I have really wrestled with the decision. I hate to leave anything unfinished,” Belcher said at the time.

Today the longtime Washington resident is back in West Virginia as the founding partner of Legacy Builders, a firm that works with executives to define and implement their community legacy.