(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Oregon State Sen. Richard Devlin, from Tualatin, represents District 19.)

Our nation was founded on the democratic belief that individuals have both a right and responsibility to participate in their government. It is essential that citizens actively participate in local, state, and federal government decision-making. There are many forms of participation, including staying informed about current issues, regularly corresponding with your elected officials, and voting.

Another great way to participate is to be a member of a state board or commission. Almost 100 of my constituents - your friends and neighbors - serve on Oregon's boards and commissions. The role of state boards and commissions can consist of policymaking, regulating, advisory, and advocating.

There are over 200 boards and commissions in Oregon. The subject areas reach across the spectrum to include the Board of Accountancy to the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps Advisory Committee. Some boards have very specific membership requirements, other positions can be filled by any committed citizen.

Depending on the role of the board, the members could be instructed to set policy or regulate. For example, the Environmental Quality Commission, which consists of a five-member board, develops policy and rule-making for the Department of Environmental Quality, while the Oregon Student Assistance Commission administers state, federal and privately funded student financial-aid programs for post-secondary students.

Boards can also be advisory. The Sustainability Board is in charge of identifying, evaluating and proposing incentives and removing negative incentives for the purposes of encouraging activities that best sustain, protect and enhance the quality of the environment, economy and communities.

Citizens can also participate on an advocacy commission, such as the Commission on Asian Affairs, which advocates for the development of economic, social, political and educational opportunities for Asian-Americans within Oregon.

These examples are only four of more than 200 boards on which members of the public can serve.

The governor's office is continuously recruiting to fill vacant positions. There are currently numerous vacancies. Most appointments for the boards are done by the governor, and the governor's appointee is often subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Once the governor puts forth a nomination subject to Senate confirmation, the nominee is interviewed by the Senate Rules and Executive Appointments Committee, which I currently chair. With the approval of the Rules Committee, the appointee's nomination moves to the Senate floor for final confirmation. The Senate will next confirm nominations in February.

The state boards and commissions play a vital role in making state policy. I would encourage any citizen interested in being a member of a board to contact the governor's office. The application, a directory of all the boards and a listing of vacancies can be found at the governor's Web site at

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