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Washington County commissioners filled the vacant seat less than a day before the new legislative session starts.

COURTESY PHOTO: NATHAN SOSA - Nathan SosaLess than 24 hours before the start of the 2022 legislative session, the Washington County Board of Commissioners appointed Nathan Sosa to House District 30 on Monday evening, Jan. 31.

The appointment of Sosa, a Hillsboro attorney who also serves as president of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation, fills the vacancy left by former state Rep. Janeen Sollman, who was appointed last month to fill the vacant Oregon Senate seat left by the resignation of Chuck Riley in late 2021.

Sosa was sworn in Tuesday morning, Feb. 1, as the Legislature gaveled in for a 35-day short session.

The vote was 3-2 in favor of Sosa over education lobbyist Lamar Wise, who also applied to fill Riley's seat and was a finalist for that appointment. Cybersecurity consultant Barry Johnson-Smith was also interviewed Monday.

Oregon law gives the final say on who is appointed to county commissioners. However, the process starts with the party to which the previous officeholder belonged selecting nominees to present to the commissioners.

Local precinct committee persons (PCPs) in Washington County then vote on their favorite nominee, the results of which are shared with the county commissioners ahead of their public meeting.

Commissioners who voted for Sosa all expressed that they did so to honor the will of the local PCPs. Twice as many of them voted for Sosa over Wise, with Johnson-Smith a distant third.

"From my standpoint here today, I'm following the principles of the appointment and listening to what others have indicated to us would be the right choice in making this appointment," said Chair Kathy Harrington during deliberations.

She was joined by commissioners Jerry Willey and Roy Rogers in voting for Sosa, who is also a former chair of the Oregon Ethics Commission.

The two other commissioners, Pam Treece and Nafisa Fai, voted for Lamar Wise, a policy activist and lobbyist who also garnered dozens of votes from Washington County Democrats.

Commissioner Rogers stated that he has done some 20 appointments to fill vacancies during his time in office and almost never goes against the results of the PCP vote. If he had, he said Wise could very well have ended up as the appointee.

"My heart tells me Lamar, but my mind tells me that we have to follow the process, as the chair said," Rogers said. "So I will vote for Nathan."

Each nominee was given time for opening and closing remarks, which Sosa used to describe his background as an attorney and civil rights advocate.

"I want to be a voice for positive change," he said. "I want to do everything I can to improve the lives of people in Hillsboro and throughout Oregon."

Not only will Sosa have to hit the ground running as the legislative session begins tomorrow, but he will preside over a changing district. Through this year, House District 30 remains a sprawling rural-and-urban district that includes Hillsboro and parts of Banks and North Plains.

Following legislative redistricting last year, the district will change to a much more urban boundary, however. This change-over was part of the questions that commissioners posed to the nominees.

All three of the nominees said that the appointee should use their first year to really familiarize themselves with the needs of their rural constituents and carry their advocacy of rural Washington County residents into next year, even after the lines are redrawn.

The reshuffling has come in a flurry over the last few months, as policymakers retire from their posts or seek higher elected office. One of those high-profile departure from elected office was Betsy Johnson, who vacated her Senate District 16 seat to make an unaffiliated run for Oregon governor.

Sosa said he has every intention of running for the seat in the newly drawn District 30, noting that he has already filed his candidacy.

He pointed to his experience with the Hillsboro Schools Foundation, and as a member of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, as reasons why he is the right choice to represent the district.

"There are so many challenges confronting our community," Sosa said during his closing remarks. "It's going to take all of us working together … the public, private and nonprofit sector. We're going to need to find common ground with people who have very different backgrounds and perspectives than us."

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