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Politics runs in the family

Majken Ryherd (‘85) balances her dream job and home life

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Lobbyist Majken Ryherd, left, got to work with her son, Sana Keira, in 2010 when he served as a legislative page in the Washington House of Representatives. | Photo by Washington House of Representatives

The daughter of a lobbyist, Majken Ryherd (’85, Political Science) knew early on that she wanted to be involved in politics.

“Not many tell their junior high teacher, ‘I want to be a lobbyist,’” says Ryherd, who also spent part of her junior high school days in the state Legislature as a page.

Ryherd, 47, has just begun her second career as a lobbyist. Last year, she ended a decade as chief of staff for the Democratic Caucus of the State House of Representatives in Olympia, where she worked closely with House Speaker Frank Chopp and other members of the House. She also supervised the caucus staff and helped with legislation, including a bill that expanded health coverage to all children in the state.

Ryherd returned to lobbying last year in part to spend more time with her family. Ryherd and her husband, Mike James, are raising three children, adopted from West Africa, who are now in fourth, fifth and ninth grades. The oldest has already followed in his mom’s footsteps and served as a legislative page in junior high and high school.

Lobbying is also a job Ryherd loves; she was a lobbyist from 1993 to 2000 before working for the House Democrats. Last year, Ryherd and a partner formed Waypoint Consulting Group, whose clients include the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, the city of Kirkland, a solar energy company in Marysville, and others.

“I like the strategy. It’s fun to figure out how you get issues before the Legislature, how you determine who’s going to care about which issues,” she says. “It’s a different perspective when you’re inside the Legislature vs. the outside. But it is great to work on the issues I care about.”

For example, Ryherd is working with the Statewide Poverty Action Network on a mortgage foreclosure prevention bill that has passed the House and is working its way through the Senate. “That’s going to be able to help real families keep their homes,” Ryherd says. “I like those things that make a real difference for folks.”

Ryherd got her first taste of lobbying as a student at Western as Legislative Liaison and later as President of the Associated Students of WWU. In those days, hot topics ranged from whether the AS Bookstore should sell pornography to whether WWU should pull investment dollars from the apartheid government of South Africa.

Western was small enough to provide a community, but large enough to provide excitement, Ryherd says. And the Political Science Department provided a jumping-off point for her next step – a master’s degree from Cornell University after two years in the Peace Corps in Senegal.

“I was very connected and involved,” she says of Western. “It was a great place for me.”