SD20 candidate profiles: Charles Gallia vs. Alan Olsen
As the 2018 election season draws closer, Democrat Charles Gallia has stepped forward to challenge incumbent Republican Alan Olsen for Oregon Senate District 20.
Gallia, a resident of Carver, just outside Oregon City, is a fifth-generation Oregonian who was born in St. Helens and grew up in the Clackamas area. Gallia's father died early in his life, so his grandfather helped raise him.
After going to Portland State University for a year, he had to quit school and work to earn money to pay for his education. Later, he went back to PSU and earned his bachelor's degree in political science and a doctorate in public administration.
For the past 17 years, Gallia has worked as a senior health policy adviser for the Oregon Health Authority.
Gallia said he has a passion for ice climbing, distance running and working on projects, big or small, such as building his house. Some accomplishments include climbing the Oregon Cascades, except for Mount Jefferson, and completing the Silver Falls ultramarathon.
Gallia is running for SD20 in part because state senators run for office every four years rather than every two, like in the House of Representatives, and because with 30 senators versus 60 representatives, a Senate role becomes more significant.
"It gives you a chance to become familiar with what the issues are and be thoughtful about the future of Oregon and to make an impact," Gallia said.
The three issues he will focus on are health care, transportation/economy and the quality of rural life.
With health care, there is always a constant battle. Gallia said we need to get a handle on how health care is financed for low-income people and, at the same time, make sure everyone's insurance premiums don't go through the roof.
When it comes to transportation and the economy, the funding of a new Interstate 205 bridge was on the transportation bill, but Gallia said the version that finally passed didn't meet Clackamas County's needs.
"A few years ago, there was a discussion about changing the urban growth boundary and moving that into what was clearly rural farmland, and it made me concerned because the urban areas weren't being developed," Gallia said. "The pressures on the farmland and rural way of life could have been addressed just by following the rules of land-use planning, but the resources weren't there to build the infrastructure that's necessary for houses and businesses in that part of the area."
Olsen will seek a third term as the District 20 senator.
He was born and raised in Illinois, but for the past 30 years he has lived in Canby with his wife, Juanita, and his two dogs. When Olsen moved to Oregon in 1978, he became a general contractor and has been building houses ever since.
He served in the military from 1969 to 1971 and later graduated from Purdue University and got his bachelor's degree in chemistry. His hobbies include playing golf and fishing and at one time he was a professional tournament bass fisherman.
Olsen said the reason he got involved in politics was because in 2009 the state wanted to charge everyone who owned a well a $100 tax. He talked with his neighbor, who was a senator at the time, and she said the bill would never pass. Although she didn't support the bill, she still voted for it, and that stirred his passion. The next year, he ran for the Senate and won the November 2010 election.
Olsen focuses on three issues — education, employment and efficient government. He said he wants to continue to fight for the government to earmark more money for education because great education brings great employers.
Olsen said that small businesses are the backbone of the state, but they are taxed "a ton of money and put under a lot of rules." And that prevents small entrepreneurs from moving forward.
When it comes to efficient government, the government must supply residents with highways, infrastructure and safety because that's its responsibility, he said. At the same time, it has to use the money on hand and not keep borrowing.
"Anytime I vote on a bill, I look at what does it cost to Oregonians?" Olsen said. "That's the decision I make because I work for the people. I don't work for the party, and I don't work for any union."
When he was first elected, a woman in Canby called him and asked for his help because the county was going to shut down her house, which violated a lot of county rules. A couple of years later, he was with his wife at Walgreens and the same woman came up to him, asked to give him a hug, and thanked him for saving her house.
"That's the thing that keeps me going," Olsen said. "It's the fact that you can do things for people that other people can't do."