Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, is one of roughly 100 new appointees to state boards and commissions. (Photo by Ron Cooper/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Nearly 100 people, including one retiring state senator, were appointed or reappointed to state boards and commissions by the Oregon Senate on Friday.

Most members of state boards are unpaid volunteers, nominated by Gov. Kate Brown and confirmed by the state Senate. They wield power over state land policy, public pensions, transportation policy and more. 

The most controversial of Brown’s latest round of nominations was Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, nominated to the Oregon Transportation Commission. As first reported by Willamette Week, 11 environmental groups wrote Brown a letter opposing Beyer, saying that he shouldn’t be appointed because he is a white man who lives outside of the Portland area and supports highways.The Senate approved Beyer, along with dozens of other candidates, in a group motion. He’ll begin on the transportation commission next year after ending his current Senate term, and he said he looks forward to continuing to implement Oregon’s 2017 $5.3 billion transportation package.

Few faced Republican opposition

Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons, asked to vote on six candidates individually. All seven Republicans present voted against appointing Shenoa Payne to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission; Anne MacDonald and Erica Medley to the Governing Board of the State Department of Geology & Mineral Industries; Ronnee Kliewer and Kelly Kuklenski to the state Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision and Brenda McComb to the state Board of Forestry.

Kliewer, a Portland attorney, and Kuklenski, who works in corrections in Clackamas County, raised the ire of Republicans who disagree with Brown’s approach to prison releases. Brown used her clemency powers to release around 1,000 people from prison before the end of their sentences in 2020 and 2021, and the parole board in recent years has leaned more toward releasing prisoners. 

“We have a board right now that’s just really going to the extreme of letting people out of jail,” Girod said. 

He said he didn’t get clear answers about whether Kliewer and Kuklenski would honor the mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes including rape and murder prescribed by Measure 11, approved in 1994. Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said he thought those answers were clear. 

“One of the things that they really stressed is that they would follow the law, and the law on Measure 11 is very clear in this state,” Dembrow said. “They don’t have latitude for early release there.”

Girod objected to McDonald, who works for the city of Hillsboro, and Medley, who works for the Army Corps of Engineers, because he said the board for the geology department has too much government representation and not enough industry representation. 

And he opposed Payne, saying that someone who makes a living suing over ethics violations shouldn’t be on the board that determines whether someone committed an ethics violation. Other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, said they would have voted for Payne if she wasn’t part of a group motion out of courtesy to the Democrats who nominated her. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has nine members, eight of whom are appointed by legislative caucuses. 

McComb, a retired Oregon State University vice provost for academic affairs, has served on the forestry board since 2018. Girod said he opposed her reappointment because she opposed harvesting trees, which Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, said was an inaccurate characterization. 

“When I hear the comment that some people think the wildfires are only about climate change, I don’t know those people,” Golden said. “I know quite a few people who believe that climate change is a very important element, and many of them, most of them, would agree that forest management is an important element as well. My hope is that we could have a more nuanced conversation about what kinds of forest management we’re talking about.”

Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.