For Secretary of State Kim Wyman, public service roots run deep. And it's not just about the job she holds as a critical member of the Washington State government.
Wyman's family life is deeply rooted in military service. The secretary has family members who have served in all five branches of the armed services. Wyman's husband, John, served in the Army and in the Reserves from 1987 to 2000.
And now the next generation of the Secretary's family may be joining the fold. One of Wyman's daughters is looking into the Joint Adjutant General (JAG) program in the Marine Corps.
Wyman, a Southern California native, began her journey as a military spouse in 1988. After her marriage to John, the couple embarked on an overseas deployment to Anspach, Germany for three years. John Wyman served in the 1st Armored Division, military intelligence. Wyman completed her education, and then served in a civilian position as a training/development specialist for the U.S. Army.
The Wymans' experience in Germany was one they will never forget.
"Germany was an incredible experience," Secretary Wyman said. "In Anspach, at that time, the total size of the community was 30,000 people, with 10,000 being military."
"The military community was so close knit," she added. "There was quite a cultural cross section of people from different backgrounds and experiences, and we really learned from each other. Because we didn't have our family and friends over there, we were able to foster support amongst each other."
While Wyman's community and work experiences overseas were positive and enriching, the time and transitions weren't without their challenges.
"I came from a very dense population in Southern California," Wyman noted. "Anspach was a largely rural population. That was probably my hardest adjustment."
"There was also the language barrier," she added. "I knew some German, but I wasn't fluent. It was nice to be on base and do those simple things from time to time, like seeing a movie in English."
Another memory that Wyman recalls very distinctly was a time when there was an important election in the U.S. when she was overseas.
"I never missed an election," Wyman said. "Voting and being a part of the process was very important to me."
At that time, fax was the biggest technology around, and the Internet was still in its beginning stages, so those deployed overseas relied on the mail system to receive their ballots. The Wymans' ballots did arrive in Germany as they were supposed to, but with an unfortunate catch - they arrived one day after the election.
Wyman and her husband were really disappointed.
"We missed the election and couldn't vote," she remembered. "While we were disappointed, life went on."
Little did Wyman know at the time, but that the experience would come back to her in a major way during her public service in Thurston County years later.
But first, there's that little thing called life.
With their first baby on the way, John Wyman was stationed at Fort Lewis in 1991, and the couple made its way to Washington State. After researching where they wanted to settle, Lacey was the top choice.
"We chose Lacey by design," Wyman said. "We wanted my husband to be close to work, but not too close to bring his work home with him."
She also liked the sense of community that Lacey provided.
"Because we were so enriched at being a part of the military community in Germany, we wanted to be in a city with a strong military family presence in the community and the schools because we really feel that connection. We have made some wonderful friends as a family and the city felt so welcoming."
While the Wymans have made Lacey their home for more than 20 years, other military families have called Lacey home temporarily due to deployments. While this affected the whole family, Wyman said it has affected her daughters the most.
"The kids got really attached to some to friends at school, and then they would move away," the Secretary said. "It was hard on them, but also a good experience, too, as they had to learn how to cope and learn the skills of how to stay in touch and connected anyway."
Speaking of connections, Secretary Wyman served as the auditor for Thurston County for 12 years. Her service and leadership garnered multiple awards for distinguished service. It was during this time that Wyman's memories of her overseas voting disappointment came back to the forefront.
Not wanting to have Servicemembers go through the same frustration she did, Wyman was in the forefront of creating an email balloting system where military and their families were able to participate in the voting process as smoothly and seamlessly as possible using technology.
"This was an issue really close to my heart," she said. "We ran with the idea, and it was enacted into state law. This is something I am really proud of being a part of."
In addition to the email voting process, the Secretary has other initiatives she is working on in her new role as Washington's Secretary of State that have ties to the military community. In the 2012 presidential election, many voters were engaged in the process. As the community moves toward this year's local elections, the Secretary and her team are looking to get more voters engaged, particularly younger voters between the ages of 18 and 25.
"Local elections in Washington State are very important," Wyman said. "We are working to voice the importance of having a voice in the voting process through outreach efforts, making contacts, and leveraging the Internet. We are also getting out to as many installations as possible to encourage voting."
Wyman can't emphasize enough the importance of being a part of the vote and learning more, even for military families whose presence in Washington may be temporary or for those who are returning or transitioning from service and have chosen to make Washington their home.
"Even if you are here for two or three years, you are an important and vital part of the community," she said. "There are many ways to be connected to the community and to participate as a citizen. Find the areas of government that impact you and your family and find out what's going on. Maybe that's a school board meeting or a city council meeting. Your voice matters."
For more information about voter engagement, initiatives, and news visit the Secretary's website at www.sos.wa.gov/office/welcome.aspx.