That was our first thought when Rob Wagner was appointed earlier this year to replace Richard Devlin in the Oregon Senate, although we should probably explain that reaction a bit.
It's not that we questioned Wagner's qualifications for the job. In fact, he was by far the best candidate in a field that included a city council president, a former state representative, a couple of environmental advocates and a former policy advisor to an Oregon governor.
Indeed, everything Wagner has done in his career seems to have pointed him toward a role in the Legislature. He has served on the City Club of Portland's Civics Education and Advocacy Committee, the Lake Oswego Citizens Advisory Committee and Oregon Volunteers, and he worked for 10 years as the director of political and legislative affairs for the American Federation of Teachers (Oregon).
He was hired by Portland Community College in 2012 to serve as its government relations director and was then promoted in 2014 to become the school's associate vice president for college advancement, a job he held until he decided to seek the Senate appointment in late 2017.
Because of that work, Wagner is remarkably well-connected in Salem and was able to hit the ground running during this year's short Legislative session. There, he laid the groundwork for an ambitious agenda that focuses on education, health care and other issues.
But here's the thing: Wagner is also a member of the Lake Oswego School Board, an elected (and unpaid) position he's held since May 2017. And that's as complex and demanding a job as state senator — especially at a time when the district is searching for a new superintendent and managing $187 million in bond projects.
So what gives?
Will Wagner's work in Salem distract him from his job on the School Board? Will district needs keep him from focusing on state issues?
If the past nine months are any indication, the answer to both questions appears to be "no." Because as it turns out, Wagner has found a way to let one job inform the other, not distract from it. For that reason, we believe that nothing has to give — and we urge District 19 voters to confirm Wagner's appointment by electing him to a full term in the state Senate.
Here are some examples of what we mean:
— When a group of Lake Oswego high school students crafted a list of common-sense gun safety regulations earlier this year, they asked Wagner (and his Democratic colleague, state Rep. Andrea Salinas) to carry it to Salem for them. Wagner vowed to introduce legislation in the next session.
— When an LOHS ninth-grader and a Holocaust survivor sought to make education about genocide mandatory in Oregon schools, they asked Wagner to join them. He testified at their side last month, and he again vowed to offer a bill for consideration in 2019.
— When incidents of racism and hatred rocked Lake Oswego schools earlier this year, Wagner first marched with students and other community members through the streets of Lake Oswego and then led the charge to create an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee that will guide the school district to a place where every child can thrive — a model that Wagner has also promised to promote in Salem.
Wagner has taken strong stands on other issues, of course. Universal health care is a priority, along with paid family leave and child care assistance for working families, affordable housing and addressing climate change. But his Republican opponent — David Poulson, who currently serves on Lake Oswego's Development Review Commission — cares about many of the same things. And Poulson would bring an engineer's analytical mind to Salem — a real plus in an arena where passions and political affiliations often trump good policy.
What gives Wagner the edge in our mind is the very thing that originally made us ask, "What gives?" Because when the discussion in Salem turns to school safety or mental health services or sexual violence prevention education, who better to show the path forward than a School Board member who knows first-hand how those issues impact real students and teachers in real classrooms.
When critics point to Oregon's abysmal performance on graduation rates and other indicators of educational success, who better to share innovative ideas than a School Board member from the state's top-ranked district, where the mantra "all means all" has resulted in policies and programs that consistently and effectively promote academic excellence.
And when the Legislature finally decides to fix Oregon's broken revenue system and find some way to provide stable funding for education — and it must — who better to explain the impact of lawmakers' inexcusable inaction than a School Board member who knows that even in a district as successful as the LOSD, something always has to give.
Rob Wagner will carry all of those messages to Salem, specifically because of his role as a School Board member. That's why we urge you to join us on Nov. 6 in electing him to the District 19 seat in the state Senate.
— Pamplin Media Group Review