If selected as college president, Troutdale politician would leave seat sought by GOP's Justin Hwang

FILE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, is looking for a new job.

The House District 49 state lawmaker has applied for the president position at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, The Outlook has learned.

If he gets the nod — which is far from certain — he'd likely be required to resign his post in Salem.

"I think it would be considered a conflict of interest," Gorsek said during a phone interview on Wednesday. "I would be doing many of the things that I do now in the Legislature, but it would be focused on the college as a district."

The news has big implications for Republican Justin Hwang. The owner of the Joy Teriyaki restaurant chain has already launched a campaign to unseat Gorsek in the November election. The 32-year-old also sits on the board of the Mt. Hood Community College Foundation.

FILE PHOTO - Justin Hwang, Republican challenger for House District 49. "He's got a good resume for it," Hwang said, but "I don't want to work for him."

Once a Portland police officer, Gorsek has taught criminal justice and geography as a full-time instructor at Mt. Hood since 1997. The 60-year-old Democrat has represented Troutdale at the statehouse since 2012.

Despite its significant presence in East Multnomah County, the college has struggled to modernize its 200-acre campus that serves some 30,000 students. Voters rejected bond measures in 2016 and 2017 that would have raised local property taxes but also paid for a workforce training center plus seismic and security upgrades.

"I can't speak for the board, but in my mind that is one of the key needs right now. Not only expanding programs, but especially in the areas around industrial (education)," Gorsek noted.

Outgoing MHCC President Debra Derr announced her retirement last September and says she will leave the school permanently this June.

The selection process and number of candidates for the top spot is confidential, though the college has indicated it will internally select seven to 10 semifinalists on Feb. 16, according to the school's website.

The names of a final crop of three to five candidates will be released to the public in March.

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