Gary Harris holds the UW Distinguished Alumni in Pharmacy Practice Award. 

Earlier this month, former Woodinville Mayor Gary Harris received the 2022 University of Washington School of Pharmacy’s Distinguished Alumni in Pharmacy Practice Award.

“I felt very honored,” Harris said.

Harris is the Immediate Past-President of the UW Pharmacy Alumni Association (PAA). As a 1972 graduate, he is currently in his 50th year as a licensed pharmacist. However, he retired from the practice about three years ago. 

One of the highlights of his career, Harris said, was when he became the first Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) in Washington. As a CDE, his role was to teach diabetes patients how to carry out their own treatment.

“I found that as a pharmacist, I was one of the few people in the country that was actually doing a patient education program in diabetes,” he said. “Without sounding too boasty, I think you could say that I served as a role model pharmacist in the country in getting pharmacists involved in inpatient education.” 

From 2005 to 2016, Harris was a member of the Washington Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission under Govs. Christine Gregoire and Jay Inslee. He has been friends with Gregoire since college, he said.

“When she became governor, she said, ‘Gary, would you like to be on the pharmacy commission?’” Harris said. “And I said, ‘Boy, you damn well better believe I'd like to be on the pharmacy commission.’”

He continued, “And then when Chris Gregoire didn't run again for governor, she had a conversation with Jay Inslee and said, ‘You should keep Gary Harris on the pharmacy commission because they're really doing good things.’” 

Harris also served as chair of the commission and was a member of the Washington Pharmacy Board for part of his tenure, he said. In 2007, he helped write a law known as the Pharmacists Responsibility Rule. The law sparked controversy when an Olympia pharmacy sued the Washington Pharmacy Board, according to an article by KUOW.

“What we said in this law was that, if you have a legal prescription, written by a licensed practitioner who is practicing within their scope of practice, for a diagnosis that is treated by that drug at an established dose, that you cannot refuse to fill the prescription,” he said. “What this whole thing boiled down to was the morning after pill.”

The plaintiff argued that the rule violated their religious beliefs by requiring them to supply emergency contraction, the KUOW article states. For several years, the rule was overturned and then reinstated at various levels of court.

Harris says that he was once subpoenaed to testify at the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma for the case. He said the prosecution attempted to get him to say that he had no real say in the law, and that Gregoire or the Secretary of Health had told him what to say in court.

“This prosecution lawyer was saying, ‘Well, Mr. Harris, isn’t it true that you’re a friend of the governor? And don't you know the governor? And isn't it true that the governor has told you how to respond to our questions here in court?’” Harris said. “So finally, when she quit talking, and it was my turn to talk, I said, ‘Well, yes, I do know the governor. I went to school with her when she was a graduate.’”

He continued, “And I said, ‘But let me tell you this: I don't tell the governor how to run the state of Washington, and the governor does not tell me how to run the Board of Pharmacy.’ And they just said, ‘Okay, no more questions.’”

In 2015, a federal appeals court upheld the Pharmacist Responsibility Rule, which remains in effect to this day. 

Last year, Harris was elected mayor by the Woodinville City Council after Mayor Elaine Cook departed unexpectedly to New Zealand. He was unseated by current Mayor Mike Millman in the November 2021 election. 

Today, Harris runs the Hideaway Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Woodinville with his wife Carrol and business partner Pat Ford. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris went back to old habits and spent much of his time vaccinating people against the virus. 

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