Prusak ready to hit ground running
The day after she was elected as the new representative of House District 37, Rachel Prusak went back to her day job.
She'd worked full-time throughout the campaign, and that wouldn't change even after a long and exciting night of watching election returns.
In a way, it was fitting for Prusak — a nurse practitioner — to be back at work caring for homebound patients while her supporters slept off the celebration, because this was exactly the type of perspective she hoped to bring to the Legislature.
"What's super exciting about this legislative session is we voted in a social worker, a nurse practitioner, a teacher and a DHS worker," Prusak said. "This is a citizen legislature, and instead of just lawyers and business owners we are really going to have diversity on what it means to be a citizen of Oregon."
Prusak, a Democrat, unseated incumbent Republican Julie Parrish — who'd served the district encompassing West Linn and Tualatin for eight years. In the weeks since the election, Prusak spent her time outside of work attending "as many meetings as I can."
"I'm meeting with elected officials from West Linn, from Tualatin, from Clackamas County, from Washington County," she said. "And of course I'm meeting with local groups that supported the campaign and also ones that weren't able to support the campaign, but are interested in working together."
Prusak said that, so far, the most eye-opening meeting was at the Clackamas County Courthouse, where county commissioners and judges briefed her on the "dire need" for a new courthouse.
"It was built in 1936, and it's seismically unsafe," she said. "It has desperate needs for renovation more than any other courthouse in the state. I already looked at a bill in place to make sure Clackamas County gets the around $30 million it needs in the 2019 legislative session to make sure we have the funds for a safe courthouse where justice isn't delayed."
Prusak continues to be concerned about tolling proposals to fund transportation improvements in the area.
"I don't support the tolling proposals currently on the table, especially the plan submitted to the feds by ODOT (the Oregon Department of Transportation)," Prusak said. "More than any other district in Oregon, we face a burden."
What she knows best, of course, is the healthcare industry.
"I'm excited to continue the conversation about health care — addressing our opioid epidemic, making sure we have access to mental health care and addressing the ridiculous costs of pharmaceutical drugs," Prusak said.
In late December, Prusak learned she'd been assigned to the House Committee on Health Care and the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development. Those assignments came shortly after a new member orientation session for the Legislature in Salem.
As she prepares to be sworn in Jan. 14, Prusak is in the process of scheduling the first of what she hopes will be monthly town hall meetings.
"I will be coordinating with Senator (Rob) Wagner and Rep. (Andrea) Salinas to hold town halls monthly on Saturday mornings with rotating locations," she said.
And once she's sworn in, Prusak plans on cutting down on her healthcare job hours.
"Someone at my work will co-manage ... and I will see patients on days that I'm not in Salem," Prusak said. "I won't be full-time anymore."