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Former Gov. Gregoire: No longer in elected office, but far from retired

SEATTLE — Former Gov. Christine Gregoire may have stepped away from elected office, but she’s far from retired.

Instead, she’s leading a team of some of the most influential CEOs in the world, and looking to tackle a few of the biggest challenges facing our region.

And she’s working to raise funds to find a cure for cancer.

Q13 News anchor Matt Lorch caught up with the former governor to find out what she’s been doing since leaving office.

On a Friday night, at Gas Works Park in Seattle, Gregoire is rallying the crowd -- and cheering on the opportunity to raise money for the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, where she serves as the chair of the board of trustees.

And she tends to one of her three grandchildren at the same time.

"And some other things," she says. "Yeah, I'm busy."

As the leader of a group called Challenge Seattle, Gregoire has teamed up with the CEOs of 18 of the largest companies in the region, including Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Kevin Johnson of Starbucks and Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing.

"They are the head of some of the biggest companies in the world and they didn't get there without having an idea a minute. My job is to try and refocus to, OK, what do we want to get accomplished?"

So what do they want to get accomplished?

Improving education, bringing more jobs to the Northwest and fixing transportation gridlock, she said.

"We can't build our way out of the problem. We have got to start looking at innovative technology-driven solutions," she said.

The 70-year-old Gregoire has always been ambitious. Raised in Auburn by a single mom who worked as a short-order cook, she graduated from UW and Gonzaga Law School. She became the state's attorney general in 1992 and, in 2004 she won the closest gubernatorial election in modern history, edging out the GOP's Dino Rossi by 133 votes.

She backed the same-sex marriage bill, negotiated the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and helped secure the new SR 520 Bridge, among other things. Cameras captured a closeness between Gregoire and President Barack Obama and many speculated that she'd join the Obama administration when her term as governor was up.

"So there were discussions, I went back, had conversations with folks in the White House and the president. And you know what, I'm not done giving back to the great state of Washington."

What does she miss the most about politics?

"Ha. I miss the people. In the Legislature, for example, I became very close on both sides of the aisle and across the dome."

But, she adds, "I do not miss the game of politics."

Asked if she would ever run for elected office again, Gregoire quickly answers: "No."

But she adds that she's not done giving back to the community she loves and taking on fights that hit home.

"Both (husband) Mike and I are survivors," says Gregoire, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, had surgery and recovered. "I just think we, as a country, as a world, need to stop being afraid of cancer and find the cure and get on with it."

Meanwhile, Gregoire dedicates every Friday to spending time with her three young grandchildren.

What does she love most about this phase of her life?

"I've been so blessed to serve the people of the state as attorney general, then as governor. And now I've been giving the opportunity to serve more, and blessed with three grandchildren.

"So I can't imagine life being any better than it is for me."