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New state rep focuses on education, ag, transportation

Oregon’s new legislative session kicks off Jan. 12, but before it even begins, newly elected state Rep. Susan McLain is already thinking about how to keep in touch with citizens in the district she represents.

McLain, a Forest Grove resident who worked as a teacher at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro for 42 years, will serve as the representative of Legislative District 29 over the next two years — and she is beginning to lay the groundwork for good communication with the district’s leaders and residents.

“I am meeting with folks from Forest Grove, Cornelius and Hillsboro that have wanted to share priorities for the session,” she said. “This includes schools, cities and citizens.”

McLain, a Democrat, defeated her Republican opponent, Mark Richman, by a 9,751 to 8,321 margin in November.

McLain has scheduled January meetings with community, political and business leaders in the communities she represents, and is still working out details on the best way to reach out to her constituents.

She said she hopes to set up public coffee shop sessions to meet with citizens in conjunction with state Rep. Joe Gallegos and new state Sen. Chuck Riley, who also represent Washington County.

“We haven’t agreed on a date yet,” McLain explained. “It will probably be the third week in January. I want to have hours in the district, even during the legislative session, at coffee shops.”

McLain said the most likely locations for the informal sessions are Insomnia Coffee or Manaia in Hillsboro, Starbucks in Cornelius and BJs in Forest Grove.

McLain said she liked the idea of holding public forums at Manaia, because it is centrally located at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue in downtown Hillsboro.

“I want something easy for people to get to,” she said.

The new state representative has some familiarity with the legislative process from her years as Metro councilor — she served on the regional board from 1991 to 2006, but as she steps into her new role as a state representative, she said she is very busy preparing for her first legislative session.

“We had three days of in-service Dec. 8, 9 and 10. There will be more in-service and training on Jan. 12, 13 and 14,” she said.

Even with the orientation sessions, McLain pointed out it will take time to get familiar with the nuts and bolts of the political process.

“Any time you start anything new, you’re always wondering what the schedule and the work will look like,” McLain said. “But I’m excited. Policy work is always something that has interested me.”

McLain said she is happy with her committee assignments. She was chosen to serve on the Education K-12 Committee; Transportation and Economic Development Committee; and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

“They were the ones I asked for,” she said. “K-12 is really important to me given my years as a teacher, and transportation I’ve always been interested in. And I believe it’s real important to have someone from western Washington County on the agriculture committee.”

McLain said her key priorities will be education budgets and programs, safety issues related to local roads and other transportation needs and looking for ways to encourage and support small businesses in the district.

Although it’s more than 60 miles from her home to the capital building in Salem, she said she is not worried about the commute and has figured out the best routes to get there while trying to avoid the often-congested Interstate 5 as much as possible.

“My goal is to come back home every day, unless it’s an extremely late night or there is awful weather,” she said. “I’ve practiced three different ways of getting down there. It takes an hour and 15 minutes going down but an hour and a half to two hours coming back due to traffic.”

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