An interview with Maria Siguenza
Note: This interview was submitted by Maria Siguenza, who will run for Position 1 of Washington’s 22nd Legislative District. The seat is now occupied by Laurie Dolan who has announced her retirement at the end of this term.
Derek Day: Tell me about yourself.
Maria Siguenza: I’m a first generation American, born in Veracruz, Mexico and grown up in the Skagit Valley. I like to say “where the tulips are’’ because The Valley is known for its picturesque festival each spring. I graduated from Western Washington University during the recession, and because of that had the opportunity to experience the service industry–agriculture (back office admin work and sales), small business ownership, and now public service.
I have lived in Thurston County for the past decade and cannot imagine myself in another place. I love the people, the downtown cores, and the scenery. Currently, I live in Olympia with my partner and our dog and cat.
DD: What issues motivated you to run to represent the 22nd Legislative District in the state house?
MS: Our world is shifting faster than we can keep up with. The cost of living was already too high due to the prevalence of wages that were insufficient for working families. Now rampant inflation is worsening household financial situations. Full healthcare is unaffordable at best and unattainable at worst, especially for mental, vision, and dental care. Our school-age children and teens require schools that meet their demands. And our unhoused neighbors deserve help to get back on their feet.
DD: What approach would you take to help resolve these issues?
MS: I think in terms of systems. It’’s hard for me not to get wonky, so indulge me for a bit. The issues I mentioned are part of systems and those systems are all interconnected. The health of our local economy is vital for our community. I will ensure that small businesses have access to programs and resources they need to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic.
The goal is to create a vibrant and diverse small business community and to sustain living wage jobs. I will ensure that our community hubs– schools– are resourced to allow teachers to teach, students to learn, and families to get the support they need. From what I see, that looks like expanding mental health supports and expanding connections from the community supports to families.
In the anti-poverty work that I do now, there’s a term “benefits cliffs,” which is when someone who is on state benefits gets a minor raise or some other new cash flow, and all of a sudden they are no longer eligible for benefits. BUT that cash flow is not enough to make ends meet. Sometimes people will forgo the raise or extra cash flow because they know they cannot afford it, even though it means giving up progress.
I will advocate for a solution to “benefits cliffs” so that working families can move forward without the risk of falling back. In regard to ensuring that our unsheltered neighbors receive the help they need, I will advocate for affordable and accessible medical access that includes behavioral health support. I will advocate for solutions that don’t create more spending. I know we are investing an unprecedented amount of money in programming and yet something is not working.
So much of this work requires leadership that exemplifies a common-sense approach and leaders who work with everyone so we move forward together. Let me stress that this work isn’t about how much I know, it’s about including all voices of our community so that we are working together,.
DD: What kind of experience do you have that prepares you for a legislative position?
MS: Most importantly, this work is deeply personal to me. I was undocumented until my early high school years. My mom raised me and my brother by herself. During our hardest years TANF, food stamps, child support and WIC helped us make ends meet.
I know what it’s like to live at the margin and the stress and fear that comes with it. In my almost decade-long experience with the state, I have dedicated myself to anti-poverty and access policy work.
I am proud to have been part of the Poverty Reduction Work Group that published a nationally recognized 10-year strategic plan to reduce poverty. I’m proud of the work that I have done on the Governor’s Business Diversity Subcabinet to reduce barriers for micro-, small-, women-, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses.
And I’m proud of the work of the Washington Commission on Hispanic Affairs and the work we’ve been able to do under my leadership. We expanded career pathways for Tri-Cities students with Career Connect Washington and helped to create a COVID 19 Immigrant Relief fund for folks that could not tap into unemployment benefits. We also carved out capital funding for a city park in dire need of repair and updating in Yakima in the heart of the Latino neighborhood.
DD: How can people learn more about you?
MS: I have a website: www.electsiguenza.com For those who want to help, the best way is to donate and sign up for volunteering opportunities.
DD: What do you like to do in your spare time?
MS: Right now I’m an active member in the Junior League of Olympia. I serve as Chair of the CIELO Board of Directors. I go to the gym regularly and when it’s nice I like to go on hikes, backpack, go on scenic drives, and soak up sun rays near a body of water. During the winter you’ll find me likely working on a house project with my partner.
A couple fun facts are that I fall asleep during movies, so no one can count on me for quotes. I love music—all kinds– however, my music app tells me that I’m in the top 5% of Brandi Carlile’s listeners.