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Republican incumbent Vikki Breese-Iverson wants to devote time in the Legislature focusing on wildfire suppression and water issues

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Vikki Breese-IversonRepublican Vikki Breese-Iverson has big plans for addressing wildfire and water concerns as she seeks re-election for Oregon House District 55.

The incumbent was appointed to the position in August 2019, replacing Mike McLane, who stepped down to pursue a Crook and Jefferson County Circuit Court position. Thirteen county commissioners from the counties comprising the House district unanimously selected her over two other Republican hopefuls.

Since taking office, she has participated in the 2020 legislative short session as well a couple of special sessions, during a year that has been anything but typical.

"I have been on a very interesting ride of a pandemic and a catastrophic wildfire season," she said. "I have just had a huge learning curve, but I think I have been able to do well for our district."

Iverson is new to holding public office, but she has been involved in state government for more than 20 years.

"When I was growing up, my dad was very involved in Oregon Farm Bureau," she recalls. "He sat on a national farm bureau board and traveled all over the state and the nation putting together, reviewing and pushing forward different legislation with regard to natural resources."

Iverson was born and raised in Prineville and is a fifth-generation ranch girl. After leaving town to attend college, she returned to Crook County briefly before finding employment in Salem working for an attorney.

"From there, I went to work at the capitol," she said. "I worked for Sen. Ted Ferrioli. I worked for him during session and then in between sessions, I did campaigns and continued working as his legislative director."

During her time at the capitol, between 1998 and 2001, she helped a couple of people get elected to state office, including Bev Clarno's election to the Oregon senate. She also worked in the House Majority Office for Majority Leader Karen Minnis.

Then Iverson's career path changed. She needed to return to her home town to care for family, and while she was there, she got her real estate license, met and got married to her husband, Bryan, and had two children. Her real estate career continues to this day as principal broker with Windermere Swifterra, in Prineville.

While the real estate profession isn't directly associated with state politics, Iverson continued to stay involved in Oregon government. Her work for Ferrioli, who is from John Day, had a large emphasis on natural resources and land use.

"The natural flow of that was that I became involved at the trade association level for the realtors both locally and the state level," she said, "and got involved in the government affairs, and helped create and form the program that the local group has."

Iverson's past experiences combined with her year in the legislature amid the pandemic and recent explosion of wildfires has shaped her legislative goals going forward.

"I think there is a great opportunity to talk about wildfires and water in the upcoming session," she said.

She points out that Oregon had a horrible year regarding wildfires and that unlike most years, people in urban communities west of the Cascades dealt with it more than usual.

"I think we are going to be having a little bit different conversation," she said. "I think we need to find some ways to reduce fuel loads in the forest."

Iverson stresses that a problem of this magnitude cannot be solved by state government alone, particularly since 40% of Oregon public land is federally owned, and she would like to get Oregon's federal delegation involved. To that end, she has put together a legislative concept pushing discussion about cooperative forest management for wildfire reduction and forest health.

Water use and availability is another issue Iverson hopes to pursue if re-elected. She currently sits on the House water committee and hopes to continue in that role.

"I have gone across the district and into some of the neighboring communities to talk with users to start having good conversations on the front end as we go into this next session and talk more about water," she said. "I think we need to include our local folks in those conversations because they are the ones who are using the water."

Regarding local participation in state issues, Iverson said she is an advocate for local control when it comes to wildfire suppression, water issues and other concerns.

"Oregon is a very diverse state," she stressed. "As you look at the diversity of our different communities, we really know how to take care of ourselves if given the opportunity. I think that a lot of times, when we have state legislation that is cookie-cutter in effect, it does not affect the citizens in my House district equally."

And as the pandemic continues and limits businesses and other aspects of everyday life, Iverson hopes to support small businesses and keep economic impacts as minimal as possible.

"In the last (state financial) forecast, we came out OK because we have a lot of people who are still receiving benefits from unemployment, but that is going to change this next year," Iverson said. "We have a lot of businesses that won't be able to come back … from being shut down. There is a lot of work left to do."

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