Health Care and Social Services
The summer after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, I became pregnant with my first son. This posed an unfortunate dilemma: I was no longer a student so had been dropped from my parent’s health insurance policy. Due to my pre-existing condition of being pregnant, the monthly cost of health insurance would be greater than my rent and living expenses combined. I could receive public health benefits only if I met the poverty criteria. The system designed to assist me was actually discouraging me from working. During my pregnancy I stayed with friends and family in Idaho, Colorado who were kind enough to accept my housekeeping and cooking as well as occasional nanny income contributions in exchange for a place to live. By the time my son was born, at the expense of public funding in San Jose California, I was living in a converted garage at my grandparents while working for a start-up silicon industry company as a manufacturing engineer.
Shortly thereafter, I returned to Puget Sound and drew from my Surfrider experience to successfully interview for a job at Weyerhaeuser Company’s corporate Office of the Environment. When I received my job offer and description of full health benefits I cried with relief.
I support health care for everyone. I support full funding of public assistance programs that are designed to support and encourage our citizens in the pursuit of self-reliance. All citizens should have access to effective healthcare, affordable housing, relevant education and nurturing child care that rewards those who work. I support a hand up, not a hand out.
Health care is one of the largest contributors to our SW Oregon economy and there is more room to grow. The barriers of inadequate housing underpaid nursing instructors and poorly supported primary school systems must and can be overcome.
Economy & Industry
I moved to SW Oregon in 1994 for an 18 month assignment with Weyerhaeser Company to apply my engineering training and visions of a less polluting paper industry to the task of converting a paper mill , “the 49’r “built in 1961, from a chemical pulp mill into a 100% Old Corrugated Cardboard facility. My time working as an engineer and then member of the management team was a “baptism by fire” immersing me in the realities of industry.
Our success was dependent upon the resourcefulness, diligence and ingenuity of our workforce, the availability of supply and export lines to feed and deliver our 24/7 operations, the integrated prioritization of safety and environmental excellence and strategic financial and market analysis. During this time our crew worked together to set world records in paper production (on an antiquated paper machine) while reducing our water consumption by half and setting industry standards in safety. In short, we excelled in every aspect of industry that we could control. (During this time I, and other members of our conversion team, received the Weyerhaeuser President’s Award for our contributions to environmental excellence.)
After completing my apprenticeship and passing my Engineering Licensing exam I joined the management team of the paper mill and learned from our fearless leader, Fred Cassidy, the ropes of running a successful industrial enterprise. Fred was hired out of his retirement with the task of closing the mill. As part of the team contracted to oversee the dismantling and environmental closure of the facility, I watched the implosion of our steam boiler and the boxing up of our world record setting machine for shipment to Thailand where it could be operated by people without worker protections in a land free of environmental regulation.
In have experienced the wealth that industry can bring to our region as well as our capacity to protect our workforce and environment through responsible and visionary management. I understand the critical role that our transportation systems play in supporting the success of our agriculture-cluster, forestry and industrial exports. I’ve witnessed the fickle nature of boom and bust economics and the hardships born by people reliant on the investments of others. It is for these reasons that I support responsible development, sustainable living and strategic growth.
I support economic growth that enhances, rather than depletes our natural resources and supports a healthy, self-reliant population.
Education & Its Critical Role in the Community
As my oldest son approached school age, I – like so many others, was dismayed by the depressing trends of small school closures and the absence of funding for the arts in our public-school system. My conversations with teachers and parents revealed a similar frustration and sense of hopelessness in the face of ever deteriorating funding. At this time, I resigned from my position on the management team of the paper mill to open a consulting firm that would allow me to continue my rewarding work in resource and ecological management while allowing me the scheduling flexibility and time to dedicate to my son and his education.
I identified a curriculum that integrated fine arts, music and world humanities I set about home schooling my son. This was challenging, fun and rewarding work but we both longed for the comradery and social interaction of the community school. As we met other families in the area with similar educational interests, the vision of a new school began to form. When faced with our options of private vs public we collectively agreed that a public school would allow us to leverage our considerable efforts for the greatest good – that any child, regardless of income level, could attend the school.
After two years of planning, community outreach, grant writing and, painful negotiations the Lighthouse Charter School opened its doors with a meager budget and fledgling staff of volunteer/ board member parents and professional teachers. We tasked ourselves with the mission of expanding the offerings of our public-school system by implementing a curriculum that is unique to our area. Everyone pitched in. My contributions included Treasurer and President of the Board of Directors, curriculum developer and guest teacher in the subjects of math, science, dance, music and art.
The school has been open for 17 years, has waiting lists for each of its k-8 grade classes, serves students from the full spectrum of income levels and social backgrounds and has brought in almost $1million in capital, material and instructional grants. However, the teaching and supportive staff are not compensated at the same levels as their counterparts in the other public schools of our district. Now that the school’s program and curriculum have proven themselves, it is time for full funding that provides commensurate employment terms for our invaluable staff.
I support full funding and expansion of program diversity in our public education systems. I support compensation, benefit and worker rights for all of our public-school employees, including Charter schools, in accord with or equivalent to those negotiated by the local representative unions.
Governance & Infrastructure
I have participated in the management of municipal and industrial public water supplies for over 20 years. The complexity and long-term development planning of this essential community asset requires coordination with land and business owners, local, state and federal agencies. Collaboration of stakeholders is essential in determining how our present and future water supply remains available and safe while protecting the ecological, recreational and economic values of the lands on which we capture and store our water.
The lessons learned in this area can and should be applied to all aspects of infrastructure planning and development. Identifying the stakeholders and inviting them to the table is where it all starts. Open minded, respectful and fact-based communications are the framework upon which responsible decision making rely.
Currently, I sit on the oversite committee for the Coos Bay School District’s Best Bond.
Labor & Employment
Both as a member of an industrial management team and as the owner of an IBEW contracting firm I have relied on the strength of an organized labor force as the essential fabric of a fully functioning and equitable economy. The health of our communities is defined by the strength or our workforce.