Region360 is Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments’ (OCWCOG) newsletter, bringing you a snapshot of what is happening at OCWCOG, and around the Region.
State Senator Sara Gelser
What positive qualities make our Region unique? How can we best preserve those qualities?
Our Region has great people that work in a variety of fields. From agriculture to health care, technology to education, and many sectors in between; we are a community of diverse interests and talents. Our community is also filled with a strong spirit of collaboration and generosity, with non-profit and volunteer organizations that regularly look for ways to fill the gaps in our social service, education and environmental systems. Our Region is caring, engaged, and approaches life with a can-do, all-in-it-together attitude.
What are your top three priorities right now?
I am committed to improving the quality and accessibility of our mental health system for all ages, strengthening the safety and responsiveness of our Child Welfare system, and shoring up the safety net for all Oregonians who need support to thrive safely and happily in the community.
What are your top values as an effective leader?
The most important thing is to stay connected with actual people. As a policy maker, it is easy to focus on theoretical discussions. However, even the best-intended policies aren’t worthwhile if they don’t actually work for the people they are intended to serve. It is important to have citizens, consumers, students, and individuals typically considered “vulnerable” in key leadership roles as policies are developed and decisions are made. This requires intentional outreach, and restructuring of meetings and avenues of discussion.
How do you gain the cooperation of others?
It’s important to really listen to everyone’s perspective and understand the needs they are trying to meet. When people work toward a common goal while considering different perspectives and interests, conflict can often be pushed aside.
What do you consider your best or most outstanding accomplishment?
The oversight that the Legislature (through my [Human Services] Committee) has provided for Child Welfare over the last several years has led to improvements in safety for kids, and put the organization in a spotlight. This led to increased investment and critically needed attention for the agency, including a comprehensive audit by the Secretary of State, a new Foster Care Commission, the Unified Safety Plan, commitment to a centralized child abuse hotline, and new leadership at the [Child Welfare] Department. This will lead to a stronger system overall for families, protect kids from maltreatment, and hopefully help more families stay together in safe and healthy ways.
What is your favorite book? Is there a book that has impacted your leadership style most?
I love the book How to Find Your Mission in Life by Richard Nelson Bolles, which talks about combining vocation and passion. I was also deeply influenced by the book Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, which is about how to look critically and constructively at negative outcomes in human services and health care to plan for systemic change.