Republican state Rep. Melanie Stambaugh of Puyallup announced on Feb. 17 at a town hall meeting at Pierce College Puyallup that she will not be seeking re-election.
She notes this decision came only a few days prior to the town hall meeting.
Stambaugh was elected in 2014, at age 24. This made her the youngest woman since 1934 to be elected to the state House in Washington.
She was the only legislator not seeking re-election to announce that decision somewhere other than the house floor.
“Yes, I serve with these members but they’re not the ones I’m here to work for, it’s my community. It was the most beautiful opportunity I had, it is with great appreciation I’ve had the opportunity to serve. It is really the community that has given me this opportunity and I believe that they deserve to know first,” Stambaugh said in an interview with The Post reporter in April.
This decision came after a long period of reflection. Stambaugh had to think about where she wanted her life to go, if she wanted to build a life in politics or the private sector. After her older sister got pregnant with her first child and became unable to focus on their family business, Stambaugh decided to retire from politics and focus on the business with her mother.
“Government is a really great thing for people to serve, but I also believe our founders did not intend government to be a career,” Stambaugh said. “I think we all benefit from a steady rotation of elected individuals because it’s that diverse perspective that you get to have new fresh ideas coming into legislature every few years is a really good thing.”
Stambaugh’s family business, run by her mother, her sister and herself, is called, “You Impression,” which helps with coaching, consulting and more. Her mother and older sister started the business in 2012. It was always a dream of theirs and Stambaugh joined the team after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in business.
“When someone comes in we really help the entire person and thats why we are You Impression,” Stambaugh said. “It’s all about the impression you make that’s customized to each person and thats why we love what we do.”
Stambaugh says she has always had a passion for working with others long before taking office or her running business. She credits her mother for teaching her sister and herself those skills.
Born and raised in Puyallup, Stambaugh went to Emerald Ridge High School. There she was a daffodil princess and on the board of communities and schools of Puyallup as a student. She was also an active member of her school band and lettered in community service.
Throughout junior high and high school Stambaugh continued to learn about politics. When in junior high she paged in Olympia, spending a week learning about how the government worked at the state level.
“I remember leaving that week being like, ‘one day I want to be back here,’” Stambaugh said. “I knew it wasn’t as a staff position, I knew it was in an elected capacity. I didn’t know what that took at the time, but I put it in the dream box.”
After graduating from college, Stambaugh interviewed for an internship at independent think tank, The Washington Policy Center. She was the nonprofit’s first intern who wasn’t a political science major. As a business major, Stambaugh noted she approached things in a different and new way for them.
After leaving that internship Stambaugh knew she wanted to continue in politics.
“What I learned from that internship was you have these gears, and when you turn one gear in policy you inherently have to turn the other gears because they’re connected. A lot of times we only focus on this first gear, we don’t focus on the gears that will also turn because of a certain policy,” Stambaugh said. “It’s that relationship between policies that I find most fascinating.”
When her internship was over she found herself meeting with local politicians. They spoke about her working 10 or 15 years down the line. With an election coming up she thought about the possibility of running earlier in life.
However, she had difficulty deciding if it was a good time to jump into politics because it would be a big adjustment. But after meeting with her mentors, everyone thought it was the right time.
Stambaugh became the youngest member on the board of higher education, higher education is one of the things she is most passionate about. As the youngest member she states she was able to bring a different perspective. Diversity in who sit in the legislature is important to her.
Recalling how her tuition from her first to her last year at college grew more than 60 percent, Stambaugh realized she was the only who has experienced that on the board.
As a Pierce alumna, Stambaugh credits the school and the Running Start program for giving her confidence as a young person.
Due to her experience as a student, Stambaugh stood heavily behind Running Start bills. She also stood behind bills promoting better advising for higher education students.
“Data shows that if you’re able to intervene earlier for students that are struggling in class, the exponential return is that you have them graduating on time, getting their credits. It’s really shown to be valuable,” Stambaugh said. “Increasing advising systems for all students, but being able to catch that bucket of Running Start students.”
Stambaugh did Running Start her senior year and over the summer. Because classes are so flexible, she says it gave her time to pack in all the activities she wanted to do. She continued to take six classes at ERHS, as well as a seventh hour for jazz band and still get all her graduation credits completed.
Instead of trading out classes Stambaugh added Pierce classes so she could do more of what she enjoyed. She finds that being able to take college classes while also being in high school gave her a shift in what she thought she could do as a young person.
“Age is not an indicator of what you can and cannot accomplish, I think in many ways we structure our system to say when you’re this age you can do this,” Stambaugh said. “By being able to take college classes while I was still attending high school, it kind of helped me play with that idea.”
Stambaugh spoke on how people underestimated her at first, which she now sees as a good thing. She was able to prove people wrong and show her skills. She believes young people are capable of changing the world to make it the way they want it. At Pierce, Stambaugh worked on those skills and now will take any opportunity she has to give some of that back.
She added she will still stay involved due to all her knowledge in local politics. Stambaugh still cares about education and said she will still lobby for higher education.
Stambaugh hopes she passed the torch to other young girls to be able to accomplish their goals.
Stambaugh believes people are only as strong as the legacy they leave behind and she hopes she was able to inspire other young people. Stambaugh views herself as standing for all young people while in office, while others expected her to fall she was able to dream big.
“When I entered the legislature I said I’m here for people, not politics,” Stambaugh said.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
With dreams of becoming an English or Journalism teacher, Smith hopes to transfer to WWU
next fall to pursue her Bachelor's and hopefully Master's degree. Her ultimate goal is to one day become a professor.
On the side, Smith enjoys writing poetry and attending concerts. She tries to play the guitar and ukulele, but ultimately can only play one song all the way through.
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