Regular column will aim to unveil goings-on in state capital

Editor’s note: State Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio, has agreed to write a regular column for Lebanon Local as a means of helping constituents understand what is going on in the state capital. This is her first installment.

Oftentimes people ask me, “What is a typical day for you?”

This is one of the most challenging questions I’m asked.

The job of state representative, other than lawmaker, is oftentimes difficult to describe. There is no job description and out of the 90 legislators in Oregon, we each do our jobs a little differently.

In a periodic article I am going to share the many facets of my role as your state representative and offer a bit of an inside glimpse into our state government.

There is a saying in the Capitol, “Making laws is like making sausage; you don’t really want to see it done.”

This is not to suggest laws should be made in secret; but rather, what we might envision being a tidy process is not very prescriptive and oftentimes has as many curves and hills as a trip up Highway 20 to Hoodoo.

Now there are a few things in life I do fairly well.

People almost never refuse my invitation to dinner, so I think I can cook an edible meal. I’m good at giving advice, although I’m not sure the advice is always good. And one of my favorite talents is the ability to brine and smoke a Kokanee, preferably after I have caught the fish, not my husband.

You will note that writing did not appear on this short list. I fear that there is an English teacher that is going to take a red marker to my few and simple words.

I’m not endeavoring to write this article because I’m a writer.

I’m writing this article because I’m your state representative and I want you to have the best understanding and accurate information about your state government. So please, don’t lose what could be useful information to you because I don’t put a comma in the right place or have a dangling participle, whatever that is.                             

I have one request if you choose to read this article: Think about what your role in your government should be.

When I talk about “special interests” ask yourself if you are a member of a special interest group. Are they bad or do we simply disagree with some?

When I talk about the committee process, ask yourself if there is a topic you should be testifying on. Is there somebody you should be writing a letter to, sharing your experience with a particular issue?

And then, if you do want to correspond with a committee, your congressman, or just me, how do you form a letter that will be read?

Let me offer a little free advice… Don’t start with: “What are you stupid idiots thinking? You’re all corrupt.”   Not the best start to a conversation.   

I am not under the illusion that everybody agrees with me. My husband doesn’t always agree with me and that’s OK … most of the time.

My goal is not to have people think like me; my goal is to encourage thoughtful discussion about your legislative process.

I’m sometimes criticized for what amounts to not being angry enough. I think we have enough anger in society right now. I can be passionate and committed to what I believe without being angry.

What I work really hard to do is understand and educate those in the legislature that represent totally different parts of the state. I may not agree all the time with many of my colleagues but I find when I listen to their perspective, whether I agree or not, I can have a better conversation.

I like to think they hear me out when I have taken the time to hear them out.

In the future, I hope to share with you my view of the legislative process; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not a political science major. I don’t aspire to move to DC and be part of the political machine.

I don’t even know if I’m an expert in anything.

I just love the community I’ve grown up around and want to share issues that impact all of us.

If you don’t find my literary attempt of bringing your government to you helpful, then don’t spend your time reading this little blurb.

Go fishing instead.   

– Sherrie Sprenger represents most of Linn County, including Lebanon, as part of her 17th District of the Oregon House of Representatives, where she has served since 2008. Prior to her service in the legislature, she was chair of the  Lebanon School Board.