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Washington's outgoing secretary of state talks new top election security job with Biden administration

Outgoing Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman sat down with KING 5 Friday to talk about her new role leading election security for President Joe Biden.

SEATTLE — Outgoing Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman sat down with KING 5 Friday morning to talk about her new role leading election security for President Joe Biden, her temporary replacement chosen by Gov. Jay Inslee and her reasoning behind not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for her employees.

Wyman, who challenged former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud in 2020, is set to take over as the Senior Election Security Lead for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is under the Department of Homeland Security.

Her resignation takes effect on Nov. 19. Her replacement, state Senator Steve Hobbs, will take over her role as secretary of state on Nov. 22.

On Friday, during her first interview since taking her new position, Wyman called the CISA “the tip of the spear in terms of protecting our nation’s infrastructure for elections.”

With her years of experience guarding Washington state’s elections, Wyman is expected to share that experience with other cybersecurity professionals so they can then help local elections and states secure their election infrastructure.

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“The cyber-world is about security and not letting people know things like passwords and how our systems are structured,” explained Wyman. “And elections is about transparency. We need to make sure that people can see all of the things that we are doing, and we want to just continue to make sure that those two worlds can work together to improve our elections.”

Meanwhile, Inslee has been reproached by Republicans for his choosing of Hobbs, a Democrat, as Wyman’s replacement. Wyman is the latest in a long line of Republicans to have watched over the state’s elections. Hobbs will be the first Democrat to take the role since 1964.

Wyman said she knows she let some Republicans down by taking the federal job.

"I'm confident over time that they're going to see this is about service, but I know I've disappointed many of them because I'm not finishing my term, and quite frankly, that's one of the hardest parts of this," said Wyman.

However, Wyman also expressed optimism for her replacement, saying Hobbs will “bring a lot of experience as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard,” overseeing more than 700 soldiers.

“He has a real strong background in cybersecurity, and even more importantly, in misinformation and disinformation and how to combat it,” said Wyman.

Following Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for most state employees, other elected officials were given the choice of whether to implement their own mandates for their employees. Wyman chose to not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for her employees, a decision some officials rebuked.

Wyman, who said she and her family have been vaccinated against the virus, said that because she doesn’t know the long-term effects she didn’t want to force her workers to choose between their jobs and getting the vaccine.

RELATED: Steve Hobbs named Washington's new secretary of state

“I couldn’t live with forcing someone to choose between keeping their job and getting a vaccine and having something down the road happen that would harm them,” explained Wyman.

She said her office has been open since coming back from the first lockdown, operating at 50% with safety measures in place.

Having held her position for nine years, Wyman said her proudest achievement was modernizing the state’s election system through vote law, corporations’ systems, and optimizing customer service.

“I’m getting ready to build the Library-Archives Building, and most of them, I’m really proud of the teams we’ve built and the service we’ve been able to deliver,” said Wyman.

Hobbs will take over Wyman’s role as secretary of state on Nov. 22 and hold that role until the statewide special election in November next year.

Wyman said she and her husband are selling their Thurston County home and moving to Virginia later this fall.

When asked if she might return to Washington state to run for office again, even for the Governor's position, Wyman replied, ”Right now, my focus is really on trying to help CISA defend 2022 and 2024. You never say never, but right now, I think 20 years is a good number to end on."

Before being elected secretary of state, Wyman served as Thurston County Auditor from 2001 to 2013.