Richard Devlin has served region well; moving into new challenge
The deaths last week of former Portland Mayor Vera Katz and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee reminded us that, too often, journalists wait until someone dies before singing their praises.
We decided not to do that with Richard Devlin.
Devlin, 65, has served the residents of Tualatin, of Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties, and the state of Oregon since 1984. He's been a city councilor, an elected director of the Metro regional government, a state representative and, until recently, a state senator.
Now he moves his community service to a new arena. Gov. Kate Brown appointed Devlin — and the Senate confirmed him — to a seat on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an interstate compact created by Congress to address the electrical energy production for the Northwest, and the impact of that production on fish and wildlife.
Devlin will be remembered for many contributions in the Oregon Legislature, but most notably, he's been the Senate's No. 1 budget guru for the past seven years. He co-chairs the all-important Ways & Means Committee; the Legislature's budget-writing body. And he's widely seen as the Senate's most knowledgable person regarding the budget.
"Richard is one of a kind," said Sen. Ginny Burdick, whose district includes Tigard. "He knows every line, every number, of the budget. He's amazing."
Another lawmaker who understands the budget is Sen. Betsy Johnson, whose district includes portions of Northeast Washington County. Johnson has served on Ways & Means every year she's been in the Legislature.
"I see how hard Devlin works," she said. "Devlin is the best (co-chair) I've seen."
Rep. Nancy Nathanson of Eugene is the House co-chair of Ways & Means. Senate President Peter Courtney on Monday appointed himself to serve as co-chair between now and the next full session of the Legislature in 2019.
We should take a moment and reflect on how crazy the system is for paying lawmakers in Oregon. All in, they make about $23,000 per year. That's roughly what you'd expect a fast-food dishwasher to make. And for folks like Devlin, they earn a measly 23 grand while carefully building a general fund of around $20 billion and a full budget — counting all federal money — of close to $60 billion.
Devlin is most certainly not going to a less complicated job. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council oversees electric energy production for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, and also oversees fish-and-wildlife issues as they relate to power production.
There's never been a more critical time to have a detail-oriented mind like Richard Devlin's on this council. Oregon likely will vote on a cap-and-trade measure for limiting the emission of pollutants in 2018 (more likely in 2019); Washington likely will look at a carbon tax in the near future; all four states are moving away from coal for electricity production; and the West's few nuclear plants are aging and likely will go offline between the 2020s and 2040s, he said.
Meanwhile, the United States has never had a comprehensive, nationwide energy policy, Devlin said, adding, "This region could be the first to get its act together. And maybe be a kind of testament to the rest of the nation about what's possible."
As noted, this isn't an obituary. And the heart of the story isn't that Devlin is stepping down from the Senate. It's that he's stepping up to serve the entire Northwest region.
It's a complicated job, filled with an unimaginable level of detail.
Sounds like it's right up Richard Devlin's alley.