‘I want your ideas,’ Rep. Jeff Helfrich says in Rotary talk

REP. JEFF Helfrich of Hood River speaks Thursday at the Hood River Rotary luncheon at Columbia Gorge Hotel.

State Rep. Jeff Helfrich gave a luncheon talk Thursday emphasizing he is fielding suggestions for legislation to propose for the 2019 Legislative session.

“I don’t have all the answers. I am looking for ideas,” said Helfrich, a Hood River Republican, telling Hood River Rotarians that he wants community members to let him know what they want him to work toward in year’s Salem session. He said, “I will be listening to ideas of how we can do things differently, or better.

“I am not the smartest guy in the room,” Helfrich said, when it came to fielding future suggestions for dealing with the Public Employee Retirement System debt problem.

“We have to fix PERS, and I honestly don’t know what the answer is, so I am looking for creative solutions,” he said, saying he is mystified how the PERS pension formula could allow beneficiaries to receive as much as $77,000 monthly, when factoring in private practice public service income, referring to the recent report of the take-home enjoyed by retired OHSU President Dr. Joe Robertson.

Helfrich, a retired Portland police officer, struck a modest tone in Thursday’s talk introduction at Columbia Gorge Hotel, which contained a subtle touch by Erick Haynie, Rotary president. Haynie noted that after Mark Johnson resigned last fall, Helfrich was appointed to the position “against some tough competition.”

Haynie was himself an applicant for the position. Helfrich was chosen from three applicants by the commissioners of the three counties that make up Dist. 52: Hood River, Clackamas and Multnomah. Appointed in November 2017, Helfrich has filed for election to the post.

As Helfrich approaches his sixth month In his legislative work, he vowed to pursue what he calls “the four E’s” — education, economic development, environmental stewardship, and emergency preparation.

He pointed to a variety of bills he supported in the short session relating to health care, public safety, education, the environment, and economic development, and bills he co-sponsored with his fellow Hood River Republican, Sen. Chuck Thomsen of Pine Grove, that brought funding to Port of Cascade Locks business park development, the Court Appointed Special Advocate program, and local food banks, in addition to emergency response equipment and training funding to Hood River County Sheriff’s Office and other Gorge agencies. Another bill provides resources for recruitment, retention, mentoring and professional development of educators who serve students from student groups that may be at risk for dropping out.

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