WA Lands Commissioner ice skated with Tonya Harding as a child

Before she was the Washington Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz was a competitive ice skater in Portland, sharing the ice with future Olympian Tonya Harding.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – As Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz is responsible for the Washington’s publicly owned lands and heads up the state’s response to wildfires. She credits her willingness to accept a challenge today to the lessons she learned as a five-year-old at an ice rink.

“It really is about discipline and pushing yourself to achieve success,” said Franz, who competed as an ice skater in Portland from the age of five to 17.

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She said she learned the importance of setting goals, and learning to deal with setbacks.

Franz specifically remembers practicing for triple jumps and falling thousands of times.

“Never when you’re falling down did you say, ‘That’s failure. I give up,’” said Franz. “That’s just one step closer to when I land it.”

Competing in the Portland area in the 1970s and 1980s meant sharing the ice with Tonya Harding.

Franz said Harding was older, so they never competed against each other, but Franz remembers watching Harding practice, compete, and win.

“I can’t remember a competition she didn’t come in first,” said Franz.

She said the “I, Tonya” movie accurately shows the competitive nature of ice skating, and did a good job illustrating the struggles Harding had at home.

Harding’s mother is portrayed as a verbally and physically abusive parent who didn’t show her daughter much love.

“I was obviously not unaware of the family dynamics,” said Franz, who credits her own father’s love and support for her success on the ice and today.

“He was there every, single morning making sure I worked hard and stuck to my responsibilities,” said Franz, “That I got a good education and that I always felt loved and supported.”