Returning county commissioner says she's an independent thinker

One of the three new members of the Clackamas County Commission is Martha Schrader, who was elected outright in the primary election last May.

Martha SchraderSchrader has a history on the commission, having served as a commissioner from 2003 to 2008. She took a break to serve as an Oregon state senator and represent the southern portion of the county.

Her popularity as a commissioner who listens to the people she serves apparently returned her to the position of county leadership.

Schrader says she brings institutional memory to the commission, which includes a program instituted while she was a commissioner but set aside after she left office.

That program, called Complete Communities, involved a wide-reaching approach to urban and rural development.

Complete communities have determined how to be successful at providing their residents with a high-quality education, access to good jobs, affordable homes, access to affordable healthful food and health services, a mix of artistic, spiritual and cultural amenities, popular recreation and maintained parks, the ability to engage in civic affairs and affordable transportation choices to popular destinations.

Perhaps it was too much to accomplish, but Schrader isn’t concerned with why it was set aside after she left. She believes the program is necessary and wants to re-establish it.

Schrader says she is an independent thinker, which means she doesn’t go along with the majority if she believes the county should go a different direction.

She says she is a Democrat, even though this panel is nonpartisan. But she will vote according to her understanding of what her constituents desire.

To keep her finger on the pulse of the county and to know what people are feeling, Schrader spends a lot of time listening.

While she has been in office, she has conducted many forums with hundreds of people in populated and rural areas of the county.

That’s how she will continue, she says, when she takes office in January.

“We need to do continuous community outreach,” she said, “so people know who we are, what we’re doing and the kinds of decisions we have to make.

“People also have to be involved in the decision-making, and I think people have felt they have not been involved in decisions.”

At this early juncture of her return to the county administration, Schrader believes people’s concerns center around jobs, the economy and transportation.

“People need a venue to express their opinions,” she said.

In the past, large community meetings were held so commissioners could hear from their constituents. She cited meetings in Colton with 200 people and Damascus with 300 attending, but she also noted meetings all over the area — at Mount Hood communities as well as Boring, Molalla, Lake Oswego and others.

“It’s a big, difficult job,” she said. “We (the commission) physically have to get out there and communicate with the community planning organizations and city councils.

“We could use technology such as emails, Facebook and Twitter — all that fancy stuff — but in Clackamas County what really works is that you show up.”

Schrader will show up, she says, when the commission convenes in January, and then she’ll continue the practice she used so often in Salem — reaching across the aisle to bring consensus and action.

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