'Greatest gig I ever had.' Speechwriter reflects on the art of writing for Washington's governor. | KNKX

'Greatest gig I ever had.' Speechwriter reflects on the art of writing for Washington's governor.

Jan 13, 2020

What is it like writing speeches for the governor? Turns out it’s far less bureaucratic than the corporate world. During a break in her radio career, KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick worked at the state Capitol during Gov. Gary Locke’s second term. She worked in the communications office, alongside speechwriter Mike Wiegand.

The two reunited to talk about the art of writing for someone else — specifically, the leader of Washington state — as part of our KNKX Connects to Olympia series.

Wiegand has written speeches for hundreds of business executives and officials. He was a speechwriter at Boeing for 13 years. He says every speaker has a natural style.

"I have yet to meet somebody that didn't have a natural style that wouldn't work if we were just true to it," he said. "With Gov. Locke, it was clear that he viewed things very logically and he was brilliant on these issues, but liked to talk about them in a very plain, simple way. And while we would prepare manuscripts for every speech, word for word, he would always sound like he was speaking extemporaneously if we stayed true to that style."

Mike Wiegand
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Wiegand said the process of preparing a speech for the governor was far less bureaucratic than what he experienced in the corporate world. And, he said, Locke had one key phrase that he always wanted included: "He wanted the state to be a good place to live, work and raise a family. It was really important to make sure that the speech reflected those values and didn't betray them or stray too far from those values.  

"He was the same guy when you talked to him in the office, if you did it right, as he was up at the podium."

Wiegand said the job was to help the speaker become the very best version of themselves. He said he had a great partner in Gov. Locke. And he called writing for him "the greatest gig I ever had."

Listen to the full conversation above. It starts with Wiegand explaining that he found out he had a lot in common with Gov. Locke during his job interview.

It’s the first day of the 2020 legislative session. Today, KNKX Connects to Olympia, bringing you stories about Washington’s capital and how citizens can influence the direction of their state government. As the Legislature convenes, we’re taking a closer look at what’s happening at the Capitol, and life in the city surrounding it. To listen to all our stories, visit knkx.org/connects.