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jorgensen

From a May 16 delivered to a youth group at Eugene. Jorgensen is the author of Conversations with Atiyah and Transition, both published by Ridenbaugh Press.

Conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience. That was certainly the case when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s.

However, I’m no longer convinced that this is true.

My particular perspective was shaped by the many years I spent as a small-town newspaper reporter in places like Rogue River, Cave Junction and Estacada. In that role, I covered a half-dozen different city councils. The vast majority of the city councilors I encountered were dedicated, sincere, and served because they loved their communities.

It wasn’t always that way, though. And by the time I reached my 30s, I could say that I had spent a great portion of my adult life watching people twice my age behave like people half my age.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience, and those guys certainly fit that description.

Well, a couple of my friends decided to challenge that conventional wisdom back in 2010.

We knew that our state representative was planning to run for a statewide office, leaving his seat open. There was also an incumbent county commissioner who was up for re-election and vulnerable because he was out of step with his constituency.

We all got together one night at my place for dinner and made a plan. Shortly thereafter, one filed for state representative and the other filed for county commissioner.
My friend who filed for state representative drew no Republican opposition for the primary election, and no Democrat filed, either.

My other friend had a race on his hands, as the incumbent wouldn’t go down without a fight. The results were the same on election night, with both of them being swept into office by a constituency that was twice their age.

A peaceful transition of power had taken place. Members of the older generation passed the torch of leadership down to them, as both of my friends had the support of some of their predecessors and other pillars of the community.
Once they got into office, the real work began.

The rural communities that they represent have been unnecessarily impoverished by federal mismanagement of lands and other resources, along with decades of no-growth policies at the state level. Theirs are among the local governments throughout the state that are struggling to fund basic services like law enforcement.

My friend has served with no fewer than six other commissioners in the four years he’s been in office. One got recalled. Another resigned mid-term. Others were voted out.

He’s also had to oversee the replacement of many department heads during that time.

Six months after he took office, I asked him if the experience was any different than he thought it would be. He told me that the county was in much worse shape than most people realized.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience.

A lot of what I’ve seen over the years confirms what I’ve suspected for most of my life.

Believe it or not, I was kind of a wiseass as a kid. It sometimes seemed to me that the grown-ups didn’t always know what they were doing and were maybe even making things up as they went along.

As soon as I started paying attention to the news, I remember seeing religious figures embroiled in scandals for the very behaviors they so often condemned.

The baseball heroes that kids my age looked up to back then were guys like Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, the famed Bash Brothers who took the Oakland A’s to the World Series.
It turned out that these guys weren’t heroes at all. In fact, they were cheaters who used steroids.

Throughout my childhood, into my teenage years and throughout my twenties and half of my thirties now, I’ve also seen my fair share of political scandals. I got a really good up-close look the historic final days of John Kitzhaber’s administration, and it was every bit the train wreck you think it was.

Then there was the complete collapse of our entire economy back in 2008. I think it became clear to a lot of younger people, right there and then, that the grown-ups had made a real mess and someone had to clean it up.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience.

That conventional wisdom only made sense if you knew time was on your side, if you had decades to wait for someone else to step in and solve these problems.

But you don’t, and I think you know this.

Our nation is now $18 trillion in debt. The people who are responsible for that debt have already retired or are hoping to do so soon. Who gets to pay the bill for that? I’ll give you a hint—it isn’t them!

I don’t have to tell you that your future has been mortgaged, but I’m going to anyway, because I think it’s important for you to remember.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience.

Right?

Nonsense!

I’ve learned over the years that leadership does not exist in a vacuum. If there is no leadership, then someone, somewhere, has to step up to the plate.

Ours cannot be a generation without heroes. And if there are no heroes, then maybe it’s time for YOU to be the hero.
The theme of this event is “Passing the Torch.” You’ve spent all day in classes learning how to become effectively involved in the political process.

So here’s my challenge to you: I want you to take everything you’ve learned at this conference and take it back to your communities. If you aren’t ready to run yet, maybe you will be in two years. Maybe it will be four. But in the meantime, maybe there’s someone who is ready who could use your help. You should go help them.

Whenever possible, it’s probably preferable to have the torch passed down. But if the people who hold the torch are doing a bad job, and you think you can do it better, and they won’t give it up, then you need to take the torch! The future quite literally depends on it.

That is my challenge to you. Because the conventional wisdom that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience hasn’t served us well, and probably never will. It’s time to get out there and become involved, because time is not on your side if you’re going to wait for someone else to be the hero and save the day.

But if you’re willing to be the hero, then we might just stand a chance after all.

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stapilus

It’s a good idea to know a subject well before you write a book about it.

But once you have written that book, you have a powerful piece of validation that says, “This guy is an expert on this subject.”

Academics long ago locked in the idea of books as offering significant evidence, if not exactly conclusive proof, of expertise in a specific field, and not just through the principle of “publish or perish.” An academic thesis or dissertation is a document that for practical purposes is a book, whether published as such or not, normally submitted as a central piece of work toward receipt of a master’s or doctoral degree.

Less formally, books can serve as specific indicators that a person knows a good deal about a subject, often of use to other people. They demonstrate not only a base of knowledge, but a way of thinking about and organizing that knowledge – and an ability effectively to communicate that knowledge.

Don’t imagine that traditional publishing approaches are the only way this can happen: Self-publishing can demonstrate this expertise too.

As marketing strategist Dorie Clark wrote recently in Entrepreneur magazine, “Because of self-publishing’s increased legitimacy, it’s become a viable branding strategy for entrepreneurs who want to establish themselves as thought leaders. . . . Working with a commercial publisher still has some reputational advantages, but if your market niche is small, the mainstream publishers likely won’t be interested, anyway, so self-publishing is a great option.”

It happened to me.

In the mid-1980’s I was a newspaper reporter covering politics in Idaho, and I often heard stories about the bits and pieces, the anecdotes and personalities, that made up that scene and the activities that guided the state. I decided to collect this background about state politics, a mass of stories and personalities and issues and ideas, that had been grist for statehouse insiders only, and record it in book form.

As Clark suggested, the market niche – the subject of political history in one small state – was small enough that traditional publishers probably wouldn’t be interested. (Realizing that, I didn’t submit the project to any.) Instead, seeking out advice from other self-publishers I knew in the area, and getting counsel and other help from local book sellers, I wrote and published it myself. Inside the (small) Idaho marketplace, the book “Paradox Politics” became a bestseller.

At the time I was one of about a dozen journalists whose main work involved covering state government and politics, and many have come and gone since. But as author of “the” book on Idaho politics, long after leaving newspaper reporting, I often have been sought out for quotes, appearances, speaking, guest analysis and other activities. All of that is traceable back to that first book, and other books about Idaho I’ve written since.

Book-writing expertise can work in other directions, too: The research you do specifically for a book can turn you into an expert on that book’s subject, even if you hadn’t been at the beginning. In that way, authorship can take you into life experiences you never expected.

Your choice of subject does make a difference. In my case, I wasn’t one of a dozen writers delivering books on the same topic: I had the topic nearly to myself. If your subject is more popular, your prospective audience may be larger but you’ll also be one of a crowd competing for attention. Some subjects are more compelling – or “sexier” – than others. But if an audience exists for the book, it can exist in other ways as well, for public speaking, consulting or other activities.

One other suggestion: Don’t try to cram everything you know into one book. You’d make the book ungainly and probably poorly organized. And besides, you want to have enough additional ideas left over for your next book.

books

More than a dozen years ago, three of us – Mark Stubbs, James Weatherby and Randy Stapilus – worked together to develop a reference to help people understand and learn how to navigate Idaho government, politics and society. We called it the Idaho Citizens Guide.

It got enthusiastic response in some quarters, and strong letters of recommendation from two former governors – Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt – and contributions from some of Idaho’s most successful travelers of public territory: elected officials, lobbyists, judges, business people, attorneys.

But it dropped from sight, went out of print, and few copies of it probably remain.

Looking at it again, in a different political age, we concluded that a whole lot of it is as valid now as it was then. Some of the details have changed, but many have not, and the principles, ideas and advice in it remain as solid now as it was then.

So, back in print – the Idaho Citizens Guide. Go to the book’s page for more information, and be sure to check out the sample pages.

And then order a copy for your bookshelf. You may be surprised how often you consult it …

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The Idaho Political Field Guide, the counterpart to the Oregon PFG and the successor to the Idaho Political Almanac series, is out!

It’s been 10 years since Ridenbaugh Press published the last book in the series. This new one covers elections of the last decade, and the effects of reapportionment as well.

Several events are upcoming. Check back.

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ORpoliticalfieldguide2014

We’ve delivered a handful of copies around the state (and a few more will be coming), and the political field guide is now available for purchase.

Just go to its page and hit the Paypal button.

Or, the Ridenbaugh Press Northwest page – the Oregon book will be featured there too for a bit.

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And in fact, it’s available already for purchase on this site (via Paypal). Within the next few days, we’ll have information about the book in a range of places from this site, to our Northwest page, Facebook and elsewhere.

What is the Oregon Political Field Guide?

It’s in the same family type as a political almanac on the state level, of the type we published some years back in Idaho. But rather than focusing on the political figures, this one takes a microscope to the voters, from the statewide to the precinct level, how they vote and what’re up to. The book is packed with statistics, and the text is driven by them.

If you’d like to see an advance sample, you can find one here.

books

Dennis Griffin delivered a presentation to the Idaho State Board of Education on December 8, during the “open forum” portion of the meeting about 8:15 that morning. He was there to discuss the publication of his new book, “From Scratch.”

Here are some of his notes from the meeting:

I introduced myself as the founding president and served between Aug. 2007 – Aug. 2009 (several people are still on the board who where there then). I explained that when we went through it all, I kept saying “I really should write a book when this is over, nobody would believe us about all the balls we have in the air.”

When I retired, several reminded me of saying that. So for the past two years, I have been working on the project, and now it’s complete.

I did it for three reasons:
-Historical record
-As a tribute to my team and to the board — to leave a legacy
-As a tribute the dozens of people and organization both inside the college and especially in the community who made this happen

I mentioned to the board that Governor Otter had written the forword, and several others had written “blurbs” for the book.

I told them there are lots of personal stories and behind-the-scenes experiences in the book. And it also includes such thngs as:

– A short history of the community college movement for the past 30 years

– A description of the campaign leading up to the successful referendum

– A short history of BSU’s junior/community college history and the transfer of that function to CWI

– A short history of the Selland College

– Stories of many of the legal transactions including the land transfer from the state and BSU

– I mentioned where the book could be purchased

There were lots of smiles from the board members and nods of approval. The board President thanked me for doing the book. The audience applauded.

I felt very good about the reception I got.

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A Bill Roberts article in today’s Idaho Statesman outlined some of the news in the just-released From Scratch.

Roberts notes, for example, “Within a couple of years of retirement, Griffin didn’t even know the job offer was coming until shortly before a meeting of the newly formed board of trustees. He had helped the campaign to win voter support. After the election, he got a call from board Chairman Jerry Hess telling him to show up with a resume. During the interview, board members asked Griffin why he wanted to be president. He told them he wasn’t sure he did.”

From Scratch is available from Amazon.com and from the publisher, Ridenbaugh Press.

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Dr. Dennis Griffin, the founding president of the College of Western Idaho, has told the story of how the community college improbably came into being in just two years, in a new book released today (November 30) by Ridenbaugh Press.

Residents of the Treasure Valley heard and responded to the major campaign that made funding for CWI a reality. What they didn’t see was the behind-the-scenes activity: the decades of work and effort that culminated in the bond election of 2009, the legislative and educational soul-searching and business community pressure brought to bear on behalf of a new community college for Southwest Idaho, and conflict and tensions that only sometimes became visible.

How does a college gain accreditation? From bookkeepers to program directors, where did the staff come from? Who developed the curriculum? And: Since there was no actual building, where would the “brick and mortar” college be located?

From Scratch: Inside the Lightning Launch of the College of Western Idaho tells that story, shared from the insider’s perspective. Griffin, CWI’s first president, and the man who was charged with answering those questions and more, offers an intimate, candid telling of the triumphs and frustrations involved with creating a college from the ground up.

The foreword was written by another man closely involved with the college’s startup: Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. It has won praise pre-publication from a wide range of Idahoans, including Boise State University President Bob Kustra, who called it a “must read,” to Nampa Mayor Tom Dale. (More quotes are available at the book’s web site.)

From Scratch is available now through Ridenbaugh Press: www.ridenbaugh.com/fromscratch/ or Amazon.com $15.95 plus shipping. It is expected to be available from area book sellers soon. There is also a Facebook page; just look for “From Scratch.”

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Our weekly Public Affairs Digest – for Washington, Oregon and Idaho – traditionally have been for sale just by annual subscription. That’s changing.

The annual subscriptions are still available, of course, and are the best way to get the Digests. But we’ll also be selling them as single issues, $1.98 each. Payment through PayPal – if you’re already set up there – takes less than a minute.

Annual subscriptions, as noted, remain the best: As the national publications would put it, you save 41% off the per-issue cost that way. But checking out a few single issues can be a good way to get a sense, for pocket change, of what the Digests have to offer.

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