A new legislative session always features new faces at the state capitol building. This year’s crop of freshmen includes two southern Willamette Valley state representatives who are both replacing long-time lawmakers who retired.
Shelly Boshart Davis will represent the Albany area in the Oregon House, replacing fellow Republican Andy Olson. Boshart Davis is involved in her family’s farm just south of Albany, and recently purchased an ownership stake in the family trucking company. She’s also a mother of three school-age daughters.
In fact, Boshart Davis held her Election Night campaign party at a bowling alley. She wanted a family-friendly venue so her kids could join the celebration. Still, the kids had to head home before the victory party wound down. And when Boshart Davis arrived at the house later, “on my bathroom counter there was a letter from them, and I think it said ‘to Representative-elect mom,’ and it had a note from them saying they were proud of me,” she said.
In her new role at the capitol, Boshart Davis hopes to draw from her experience running a business and her experience raising a family. “I always am very weary of any sort of mandated government benefit,” she said. “But I do believe that we always should be taking care of employees and issues that arrive. I think that it never should be looked at as a business or as working families, because their success relies on one another.”
Boshart Davis said she knows that as a first-year lawmaker and as a member of the minority party, making an impact in Salem will be tough. Democrats will hold a super-majority in both the House and Senate, meaning Republicans can do little to block legislation they don’t agree with.
But she said she’ll speak up, especially in her role on a new committee that will attempt to craft a wide-ranging carbon reduction package. “What’s the cost to the average Oregonian? What’s it going to cost them in increased fuel? What’s it going to do when you’re purchasing groceries at the store? How did those groceries get there?” said Boshart Davis. “Well, they got there via some sort of transportation. And if those costs go up, what is the price of that food going to go up?”
Down the road in Eugene, Marty Wilde is replacing another long-time lawmaker who retired, fellow Democrat Phil Barnhart. Like Boshart Davis, Wilde grew up on a family farm. But it was … different. “My parents were back-to-the-land hippies,” said Wilde. “They didn’t have much money.”
Wilde said his folks raised organic produce before organic produce went mainstream. His parents struggled to make ends meet. He said his childhood gave him an appreciation for social safety net programs, as well as the importance of public education. It’s one reason why he’s interested in talks about a potential corporate tax hike at the legislature this year. “The primary thing we want to fund is schools. That’s the biggest revenue ask,” said Wilde. “And that is one of the biggest problems that businesses are having now, an inadequately prepared workforce.”
Wilde didn’t try to follow in his father’s farming footsteps. Instead, he joined the military and has been deployed to Afghanistan, Bosnia and the Middle East. He’s still a Colonel in the Air National Guard, and is also the director of the Lane County Medical Society. While serving in Afghanistan, Wilde went jogging with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon. Merkley was in the country on a congressional fact-finding delegation, and asked to meet with Oregon troops.
Wilde said he and a few others responded, and joined the Senator for a quick run. For security reasons, they had to stay inside the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul, which made for an unusual course. “You’re kind of running around the chaise lounges at the pool, then you’re going sort of through their sewage treatment area…it was kind of funny,” said Wilde. Kabul is more than a mile above sea level, and has chronically bad air pollution. “So we were all huffing and puffing by the end,” he said.
Wilde’s district includes parts of Eugene, but stretches north into Linn County, where it borders Shelly Boshart Davis’ district. And while the two new lawmakers are from different political parties, Wilde says he’s eager to work alongside his new colleague. “We both have a lot of ag, especially grass seed, in Linn County,” he said. “And so although we come from different parties, and have different perspectives on things, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to work together.”
Boshart Davis agrees. She said she got to know Wilde during meetings at the capitol for incoming lawmakers. “He’s my orientation buddy,” she said.
After a few days of organizational meetings, the 2019 Oregon legislative session will begin in earnest on January 22nd. It’s scheduled to last through the end of June.