Emerald Ridge High graduate to run for state House in 25th District

Candidate hopes to champion education reform, transportation and job creation

Staff writerApril 2, 2014 

Melanie Stambaugh, a 2009 Daffodil Queen and Emerald Ridge High School graduate, has announced her bid to run for state Representative in the 25th District.

Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, will run against incumbent Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup.

Stambaugh is a co-owner with her mother and sister in You Impression, a small business focused on community, career and personal development services in Sumner.

Stambaugh serves on the board of Communities in Schools of Puyallup. While she was a research assistant for the Washington Policy Center, she was named a Generation Liberty Fellow by the State Policy Network. She earned a business administration degree from the University of Washington.

The Herald recently sat down with Stambaugh at her You Impression office.

Q: What has inspired you to seek office in the 25th Legislative District?

A: The inspiration began many years ago when I was in eighth grade. I was part of a task force that started March Gladness, which is part of Communities in Schools. And that was my first introduction to understanding the power of community and what community can do.

As I entered into that, I really established a leadership base of helping lead students, and that triggered in me this understanding that I want to lead. And about that same time, I went down to Olympia, and I paged for Joyce McDonald. So when you couple this political nature and community, I realized those two were really married in my heart and inspired me to then make steps in running for office.

When I was in college, I worked at Washington Policy Center to understand the policy side, and then being 2009 Daffodil Queen, that was me in the public eye and getting to understand Pierce County and the needs of the community.

And so, now that I’m a small business owner, I realize that this is the time where I want to make improvements in education, help small businesses flourish. And then my final thing is transportation, and everyone wants to be able to get from point A to point B, and businesses need that, and families need that, and workers and employers need that.

So, what a better time to run now and make an impact.

Q: At 23, you would likely be the youngest legislator in the House, if elected. Do you think your age provides an edge?

A: I do. I think that one thing now the world is moving faster than it ever has and, being young, I’m able to keep up with that fast change. And I have an energy and a drive, and I ask different questions than I think a typical politician would, or someone who has been in the workforce longer, and so I want to offer that unique perspective.

Q: What issues will you champion, if elected?

A: Education is first and foremost. With my involvement in Communities in Schools that began in eighth grade, and I was a student board member in high school and, actually, during (college at) UW in Seattle, I also worked with Communities in Schools of Seattle, and it was a really great experience because I worked at Rainier Beach High School, which, at that time, was one of the lowest-performing high schools in the state. And so going from a Puyallup education that I got to a Seattle ... completely different education where they didn’t have textbooks for their students to take home, they didn’t have these resources that I thought were just inherent in the education system. And so I’ve seen really the wide spectrum.

And even narrowing, then, into the 25th District, there is a performance gap, and the students who are middle class have, in many ways, an opportunity for an education that some of our lower-class families and students don’t have. So I want to be an integral part of helping even the playing field for all students to get the same education, to then get the same opportunity for college, and the same opportunity for jobs. So that is really at the base of my heart.

The second part is small business, and if you look around the 25th, there aren’t many big businesses, and really the tax structure in the state benefits big business and not small business. So I want to be an advocate for small businesses, helping them thrive, helping them employ more people.

And then, finally, transportation. Like I said, point A to point B. With the finishing of (state Route) 167, you’re going to get so many more jobs — increased economic activity. One thing that I know is on the docket right now is gas tax or no gas tax, and I think, before you add that layer to it, it’s all about reform. And being in Seattle, so much funding from the state transportation budget goes to Seattle projects. I would like to see that money come down to Pierce County.

Q: How do you think being a small business owner will help you serve the people of the 25th District?

A: Being a small business, it’s really exciting. There is no plan set before you. You get to make the plan, and you execute it, and you really learn that as you’re going down what you think would be your avenue, and there is a dead end. You go, “OK, next avenue.”

There is no one else to do things. You are the one that is all riding on it.

As a legislator, that is the same thing. You are the one who is carrying the voices of the people, and if you hit a dead end, it’s important to go find a new avenue to get what you want to accomplish, accomplished.

And so I feel like small business has prepared me in that, and that’s just how I naturally think now.

Andrew Fickes: 253-552-7001 andrew.fickes @puyallupherald.com Twitter: @herald_andrew

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