Legislature

Representative Anna Williams resigns from the Legislative Assembly for a new political role

Hood River Democrat Anna Williams, who has spent the past four years in the Legislature focusing on social services policy, will soon trade the State House for a new political post.

Williams, who was first elected in 2018, will serve as the new executive director of Oregon’s healthcare system advisory council beginning Monday.

Statewide council established in 2019 develops health care policy and coordinates with a range of state, local and federal programs that provide mental, behavioral and physical health services, educational support and juvenile justice for young people.

Williams told the Capital Chronicle the job was “the perfect fit” after his legislative focus on laws dealing with child abuse, homeless youth and provider pay rates.

“There is agency policy work on the ground to be done, she said. “There is system-level, statewide policy work to be done. There is community organizing and capacity building work to be done. These are the things that I really like to do. And to be honest, I don’t have to run for office every two years to be able to do that.

The new position, which Williams says brings in about $150,000 a year, also pays far more than the roughly $33,000 plus per diem lawmakers receive. Williams and fellow Democrats Karin Power of Milwaukie and Rachel Prusak of Tualatin announced this spring that they would not run again because they could not continue to juggle the demands of often unpredictable legislative schedules, parenthood and jobs. by day.

DAILY ‘ROUND-TRIP’

Williams will now be able to do much of her work remotely from her home in Hood River, and she expects to be notified repeatedly when her work requires her to travel to Salem or other parts of the State. That’s a difference from the Legislative Assembly, where she said lawmakers sometimes only find out about late nights a few hours in advance.

Along with Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, Williams is one of only two legislative Democrats on the east side of the Cascades. Hood River is about 90 miles from the Capitol in Salem, and Williams said she tried all sorts of strategies to make the legislation work for her family’s budget, but was unable to find a sustainable way to balance finances and time commitment.

“I’m subletting a room in someone’s apartment for my first long session,” she said. “I did Airbnb sometimes when I knew we would be there for a week. I did hotel rooms sometimes. For this last short session, I went back and forth every day.

Williams and other critics say Oregon needs to increase congressional salaries to make legislative services more accessible to a wider cross-section of Oregon’s population. Women and people of color have gained representation in recent years, but the legislature as a whole is still older, whiter, and wealthier than the state’s population.

Beyond wages, Williams said set hours or childcare assistance could make legislation easier, especially for parents and lawmakers who don’t live in the Willamette Valley.

“Most Democrats can drive home at night so they’re not as concerned about things like the cost of a hotel when it’s a last minute thing that really eats away at the small salary you have. “, she said. said.

CONTINUE TO ADVOCACY

Williams has a master’s degree in administrative social work from the University of Kansas and has worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, as a program coordinator for elderly patients, and at a homeless adult drop-in center.

Prior to running for the House, Williams served on a regional agency on aging on the state Department of Human Services Board of Trustees. Councils advocate for seniors and people with disabilities. Her frustration with DHS and Oregon Health Authority officials who didn’t understand why policies that worked in Portland weren’t working in rural Oregon prompted her to run for office.

“There was this profound lack of understanding of the qualitative differences of life in rural Oregon and how our statewide systems actually affect people in rural Oregon.” she says. “We need to adjust our strategies to make things work in rural Oregon, or we’re going to continue to have this kind of us versus them, the I-5 corridor versus the rest of Oregon, a totally unnecessary, fabricated conflict. from a lack of understanding.

Williams said she was working with Rep. Lisa Reynolds, a Portland physician and incoming chair of the House Social Services Committee, to continue the unfinished business. Much more needs to be done at the state level to help older people with disabilities receive appropriate care and to help victims of domestic violence who lack health care or housing and who may have committed crimes for to survive.

A bill she pushed for in 2021 would have required judges to consider domestic violence as a mitigating factor to reduce sentences.

Legislative policy changes would also help unaccompanied homeless youth who don’t have access to the same services as adopted or traditional foster children, Williams said.

In her new role, she will work with a governor-appointed council that can set policy. And it will be more involved in the implementation of laws and the distribution of subsidies to service providers.

“It was a great opportunity to stay in the job that I felt like I was good at in the Legislative Assembly, and take this thing that’s kind of being developed and transform it into something effective and efficient,” Williams said.

Candidates wishing to complete the final months of his term in the House had to apply to the Oregon Democratic Party by Friday.

Locally-elected Democrats were expected to choose three to five nominees at a nominating convention on Saturday, then forward those names to county commissions in Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River. The commissioners will choose the new representative from this group.

–Julia Shumway; [email protected]

The nonprofit Oregon Capital Chronicle focuses on in-depth reporting on Oregon state government, politics and politics. The Newsroom seeks to help readers understand how members of government use their power, what happens to taxpayers’ money, and how citizens can play a greater role in big decisions. It is a subsidiary of States Newsrooma national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers.