Richland still considered home for Secretary of Defense Mattis

Richland native Jim Mattis will leave his position as U.S. Secretary of Defense in February.

President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Thursday that Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, is stepping down.

The Washington Post reports Mattis’ departure “could add new uncertainty to which course the administration takes on its global challenges, including Iran and North Korea, amid questions about the pending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and a possible drawdown in Afghanistan.”

Trump delighted Mid-Columbians in 2016 when he tapped “Mad Dog” Mattis to lead the U.S. Armed Forces.

Mattis was hailed for his keen interest in civic causes and his devotion to the welfare of men and women in serving in the military.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a Richland native, will step down from the cabinet in February.

He famously reported for jury duty in Benton County and served on the Tri-Cities Food Bank board for three years before stepping down when he was identified as a candidate for the defense job.

He came home frequently, giving the keynote at the 2018 Tri-Citian of the Year banquet, where he told his neighbors that the U.S. retains its ability to both inspire and intimidate.

He takes time to support local veterans causes and to drop by some of his favorite haunts, notably as Richland’s Spudnut Shop.

kevin russell mattis photo sputdnut
Spudnut Shop employee Kevin Russell, right, got a photo with Secretary of Defense James Mattis during a Thanksgiving holiday. Spudnut Shop

But his tenure as Secretary of Defense was marked by rising tensions with the president. In October, Trump told 60 Minutes that Mattis was “sort of a Democrat.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, praised Mattis for his service in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

“Secretary Mattis has shown himself to be a man who exemplifies duty and patriotism and a true role model, not just for every young Tri-Citian, but for every American,” he said.

Mattis graduated from Columbia, now Richland, high school in 1968 and went on to Central Washington University.

He followed his elder brother, Tom, into the Marines by enrolling in ROTC.

Just this week, his brother appeared before the Kennewick City Council to thank it for its support of a veterans program.

Jim Mattis was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1972, launching a successful career that saw him take on ever increasing responsibilities.

He retired in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command, overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

November 17, 2018 - James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, visited Chief Joseph Middle School in Richland on Friday. Mattis grew up in Richland and attended the school. Courtesy Richland School District

In retirement, he joined the Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank at Stanford University in California, but maintained ties to the Richland Alphabet house where he grew up.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.