House District 17 Race: Incumbent Sprenger says she’s made progress, but has more to do in Legislature

Sherrie Sprenger

 Sherrie Sprenger says she still has more work to do.

Sprenger, 53, is the Republican incumbent for state House District 17, which includes the Lebanon, Stayton and Sweet Home areas, a position she has held for 10 years. She faces a Democrat challenger, Renee Windsor-White, in the Nov. 6 election.

“There is more work to be done,” Sprenger said. “Some of the important issues that I have worked on in the Legislature haven’t come to be yet.

“One of those is the cougar issue and some relief to Oregon’s rural residents,” Sprenger said. She has worked on that issue for seven years, but the Legislature has a large contingent of representatives from Portland who have stalled out attempts to do something about it.

“Unfortunately, I’ve heard a lot of folks on the other side of this issue say, ‘We haven’t had a fatality yet,’” Sprenger said. “I always hoped it wouldn’t take a fatality. There has to be some reasonable response.”

Last month, Oregon experienced its first fatality when a suspected cougar attack claimed the life of a hiker in the Mount Hood National Forest.

The number of cougar sightings and encounters have increased over the years as Ore-gon’s cougar population grows. Sweet Home has had numerous sightings inside the city limits, including Main Street, in the past decade.

Sprenger said she will host a town hall at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Jim Riggs Community Center, 880 18th Ave., Sweet Home, with officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss issues surrounding cougars. She said it is not intended as a campaign rally but rather is about being informed and how to respond to the issue.

Sprenger, who chaired the Lebanon School District Board of Directors before she was appointed to the Legislature in 2008, said education remains at the top of her priority list.

She noted that she has been appointed to the Joint Committee on Student Success.

“I have been traveling the state. As a committee we visit schools. It’s a listening tour.”

Since this year’s session concluded, the committee has held public hearings in districts that are doing  things differently and listening to the people about education.

“The goal is to travel and see what’s working and what’s not working in schools,” Sprenger said, to see what policies might help improve education.

“There’ll be a tax increase that likely is brought to the Legislature,” Sprenger said. It’ll be called tax reform, but it’ll be a tax increase. “I have always been concerned about tax increases because I have never seen them accompanied by an evaluation of other programs. We want more without looking at what we’re doing.

“We need to budget at the state similar to how we budget our homes.”

Outside of that, “we will take  a hard look at what is going on in education,” Sprenger said.

For the sake of conversation, Sprenger brought a bill that said the Department of Education couldn’t change anything for one year, she said. The point was that the state shouldn’t keep changing things,  eliminating the ability to look at long-term data to evaluate what is or isn’t working.

Sprenger said she continues to be a champion for small businesses, industrial, agricultural and natural resources.

“I’ve worked my butt off for 10 years to represent our values in Salem,” Sprenger said. “I do that by taking (constituents’) ideas to Salem to promote our values.

“I live a mile and a half from where I lived in my teen years. My son went to the same K-8 school. My husband and I have deep roots here. I know the district, not from the outside looking in but from the inside.

“I have learned through the school of hard knocks at the Capitol how to advocate for what’s important to us, to make it a place that allows our way of life, how we go to school, how we earn a living.”