How did Hood River County’s two state legislators get their start in politics?
At the local level.
Sen. Chuck Thomsen started on County Planning Commission before being elected to the County Board, and Rep. Mark Johnson started on the School District budget committee before being elected to School Board and, later, the House.
One is an orchardist, the other a contractor. Local residents who took the steps years ago to take on roles in decision-making in their community. And both men have made a difference.
Their paths merit pointing out because right now the same opportunities are available at a local level, in the form of the May 16 special Districts Election for Hood River County.
Actually, those opportunities abound. They are on school board, the two ports in the county, and local districts serving transportation, parks and recreation, the library, and sewer, fire and water districts.
The opportunities abound not only because of the sheer number of them — a total of 33 — but the positions are going for the asking, as in very few filings as of press time Friday.
If the filing deadline were to be today, there would be not a single contested race — and some spots are still awaiting a single person to file for office. This is a sad situation for a democracy we all want to see thrive. Disillusionment at state or national-level politics should not be an excuse, for nothing that happens in Washington or Salem dampens the importance of policy in Hood River or Cascade Locks. If anything, it sharpens the need and deepens the impact of local decisions.
Participation in grassroots policy making is of vital concern to us all. With challenges such as growth and land use, economic development, questions over use of natural resources, and state budget concerns that affect local government, there are many reasons local jurisdictions from Odell Water District up to the County School District board are in need of caring people to help make important decisions.
The clock is ticking for this election; the deadline to file is 5 p.m. March 16, at the County Elections office, in the County Building at Sixth and State streets.
Not interested in elected office or not sure if it’s right for you? An individual can still make a difference in local jurisdictions by accepting the invitation to serve on planning and budget committees and other responsibilities of a seasonal, temporary or ad hoc nature. These opportunities, along with helping with non-profits, arise on a regular basis.
When asked about public involvement at last week’s town hall, Sen. Jeff Merkley said it well: “… Our government will only operate as well as the energies that we the public are willing to put into it.”
For the full list of openings, see hoodrivernews.com.