New Secretary of State outlines her priorities

Among the state’s elected officials, Kim Wyman provides a point of contrast. She is the only Republican in a statewide elected office in Washington — or on the West Coast, for that matter. And in November, she won the race for Secretary of State not on partisan rhetoric, but on a solid, down-the middle-reputation for fairness; a reputation she earned during her 12 years as the Thurston County Auditor.

In an editorial board interview with The Chronicle on Wednesday, Wyman credited Sam Reed, her predecessor in both offices, with giving her much of the knowledge needed to succeed, so it’s fitting that Wyman’s “signature issue” for this session is the state’s Heritage Center — a project initiated, but never completed, by Reed.

Delayed due to a lack of funding, the Heritage Center would combine the State Library and the State Archives into one facility on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. Money collected through recording and corporate filing fees and set aside for the project has been twice swept by the Legislature for other projects, but now is the time to make the center a priority, according to Wyman.

“It is a core service of government, in my opinion, to allow citizens access to research and books they wouldn’t normally have,” Wyman said on Thursday.

“I’ve heard legislators question if library services are even a fundamental part of government,” she said. “I believe to my core that they are.” The new center — which Wyman admits will be a “challenge” to fund — would cost between $125 million and $150 million to build.

“It’s unrealistic to think we will get back on track this year, but we need to start the conversation,” she said.

Wyman also hopes, in her first year, to instate primary election voters’ pamphlets in even-year primary elections. The project would cost about $1 million per biennium, but that expense could be reduced by Wyman’s proposed cost-saving measures, including $600,000 that could be saved by not printing the full text of each proposed initiative and referendum.

As for Gary Alexander, Thurston County’s newly appointed auditor, Wyman said she is confident in his abilities.

“He took good care of me,” Wyman said about the long-time deputy auditor. “He is impressive in his knowledge base … and he has really helped to build a good, working relationship with the community.”

Also on Wyman’s list of priorities: election law clean up, reducing costs and inefficiencies in elections and reinstating the state’s productivity board.

On Thursday, Wyman also chimed in with concerns that the U.S. Postal Service plans to end Saturday mail delivery, starting in August. If the plan goes through without congressional intervention, the first Saturday without home service would be Aug. 3, the final weekend before Washington’s Aug. 6 off-year primary.

“First, many Washington voters already are using secure drop boxes that are placed by county election officials in convenient locations,” Wyman said in a press release. “This method is increasingly popular. Many counties say that more than half of their ballots are returned by way of drop boxes, and I support expansion of this approach. With this option, of course, voters can cast their ballots as late as 8 p.m. Election Day without fear of missing the postmark deadline.

“Secondly, we will be urging voters who wish to use the Postal Service to get their ballots mailed by Friday before Election Day,” she added.