Since Laurie Trieger’s campaign for Lane County Board of Commissioners began in June 2019, she says, she’s knocked on nearly 1,200 doors.
What she hears most when going door-to-door is that voters don’t know what a county commissioner is or does. When she tells them about all of the services the county offers — everything from parks to being the largest health care provider in the county — their eyes get wide and wonder why they don’t know that, she says.
“When we’re doing such impactful programs day-to-day and they don’t know who’s in charge of that, that’s important to me to change,” Trieger tells Eugene Weekly.
Pete Sorenson won’t seek re-election after six terms as commissioner, so Trieger and four other candidates are hoping to take his seat — which could go to the general election if a runoff election is necessary. Trieger says she has the perspective of someone who’s “received services and provided services and done the policy work.” If elected, she says she wants to implement a framework that prioritizes the marginalized.
Trieger says the district will elect a progressive to the position no matter what, so it’ll boil down to experience, which she says she has. She has served on the Lane County Budget Committee, Lane County Equity and Access Board and the Eugene School District 4J Equity Committee.
Her philosophy of policymaking, she says, is first searching for agreements and building from there.
“Where we disagree is often what caused that problem,” she says. “I would always start with that point of agreement first, and I think when you work your way out from that center of agreement, you end up getting to solutions faster.”
Trieger ran a public health nonprofit in Lane County called Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth, which was focused on child obesity prevention. During her tenure as executive director, she says she used a public health equity lens, which is data-driven, evidence-based and uses outcomes to measure success, to inform her decision-making.
“When we’re talking about issues of the environment, issues around housing, issues around wages,” she says, “you can apply that public health equity lens and come up with answers where you’re dedicating resources, where they’re going to be most effective and have the greatest impact, particularly on the most marginalized.”
Trieger says she would apply that framework as county commissioner. That would focus on prevention and use county resources to prevent having future “downstream problems.”
“You start with the most-marginalized, least resourced communities and work inward from those margins,” she says. “Then everybody gets caught up in the solutions and the positive benefits.”
Lane County commissioners also serve on the Homes for Good board, which is the county’s low-income housing agency. Applying a public health equity lens to decision making, she says encouraging denser housing not only alleviates the housing crunch but also is healthier for the community.
“You put more homes in but also is better for the environment because more people can walk to things like the park and the grocery store,” she says.
Housing isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and the county has to be responsive to “focusing resources where they’re most needed for the best effect,” she says, pointing to The Commons on MLK housing development as a good policy example.
“We really need to accelerate projects like supported, transitional and permanent housing,” she adds.
On Feb. 4, the board voted 4-1 to use the county-owned .74 acres at the Lane Events Center grounds for permanent supportive housing units for women and children. By building the housing units, the county says it’s following the TAC report on homelessness recommendation for creating 350 new units.
But the county also needs to work on shelter for people on the streets, Trieger says.
“I would want to do everything I could to accelerate the creation of a low-barrier shelter,” she says.
When finding a location for a shelter, Trieger says she supports putting it wherever it’s most accessible to those who need it.
“Then constructing it, staffing it, delivering services in a way that’s compatible with whatever activities are happening nearby,” she says. “Whether that’s downtown or a commercial district, that’s what I support.”
Trieger says she sees a chance to capture economic activity — and be resilient in the face of climate change — by producing our own food and minimize a reliance on imported food.
“The more we can have a robust local food system or producing our own food and minimizing transportation on food, the better,” she says.
So far, Trieger has raised nearly $30,000 in cash contributions, according to Orestar, the Oregon secretary of state’s campaign finance tracking website. Much of this money has come from local politicians, including former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch, Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle’s Political Action Committee and Eugene City Councilor Claire Syrett. She’s also received $1,000 from the Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee.
Some of Trieger’s contributors and endorsees are alumnae of Emerge Oregon, a seven-month program that identifies and trains Democratic women to run for political office. Trieger graduated from the program in 2012.
Trieger’s endorsement list includes elected officials, such as state Reps. Marty Wilde and Julie Fahey, Mayor Lucy Vinis, Councilor Alan Zelenka and 4J board members Martina Shabram, Mary Walston and Alicia Hays.
If Trieger (or any of the two other women) were elected to succeed Sorenson, it would be the first time a woman has been elected to the represent south Eugene.
To keep residents updated about the county and gauge how well the government’s services reach people, Triger says she wants to increase outreach. For ideas, she’s looking at how state legislators hold town halls during and after session, emulating Piercy’s availability in public spaces and being available at other places where residents have everyday appointments.
“It’s important to be available and accessible in that way,” she says.
Laurie Trieger’s campaign kick-off party is Monday, Feb. 17, at Oregon Wine Lab, located at 488 Lincoln Street.
This story has been updated.