Lopes promises a fresh take
Like many residents across the country, Mulino resident Louise Lopes was galvanized by the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Having grown up in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s, Lopes has always been politically active and voted in every election since she turned 18. But she hit a new gear in late 2016 — attending rallies and finding new ways to get involved.
"Finally, I decided I wanted to run for something," she said.
Lopes hoped to find a lower-level position so she could ease her way into electoral politics. In the end, she found something much bigger than she'd anticipated: Position 2 on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.
"I live in an unincorporated area of the county — very small, very rural, and there wasn't anything to run for except this position," Lopes said. "It's kind of a big leap for someone who is a first-time candidate, but hey, one of my opponents is a first-time candidate. ... I took a chance and I jumped for it."
Lopes is joined on the ballot by Oak Grove resident Peter Winter and incumbent Paul Savas in the May 15 election. A 27-year county resident and retired state worker, Lopes believes she has plenty to offer despite her lack of experience in elected office.
"When dealing with government issues, it helps to have background in government," Lopes said. "Putting all of that knowledge into use would be a natural fit for me. I'm not a foreigner in government — I worked my whole career in government."
Indeed, before retiring in 2011, Lopes worked for the Oregon State Health Division before moving on to the Oregon Department of Revenue and later the Oregon Department of Corrections. At the Department of Corrections, she worked as an analyst in sentencing law.
"Believe it or not, Oregon has the most complex sentencing laws in the U.S.," she said. "Our position was to mitigate litigation in the department and ensure accurate sentencing."
The work gave Lopes a unique perspective on the prison population and the big-picture issues surrounding it.
"Working at the women's prison, we learned a lot about the inmates. A large percentage of them have suffered from mental illness — they also come from backgrounds of physical or sexual abuse, as well as substance abuse issues," Lopes said. "Those issues tie into society — of course it's bigger than Clackamas County, it's statewide. ... But it really shows you that the inmate population could be greatly reduced if more was put into the front end when it comes to children's education, good family life, mental health services."
Economic issues and urban growth would be other areas of focus for Lopes if she were elected.
"There's big differences in types of residents (in the county) and the struggle is to balance all of that, to have a good life for everyone," Lopes said. "I'm an environmentalist. I want to see land protected for farm and forest use, and I don't want to see urban sprawl continue. But at the same time, I want people to have affordable housing and that has become such a problem not just in Clackamas County but in the entire metropolitan area of Portland."
She said tenant protections for those who are priced out or evicted from housing would be a priority, as well as increasing the amount of affordable housing available in the county.
"I don't have a magic wand, and for me being new it would be a learning curve, but I'd just love to jump in and do what I can," she said.