The passing of State Senator Jackie Winters brought to a close a decades-long era in Oregon State politics. Her service in the Capitol started as staff to Governors Tom McCall and Vic Atiyeh and saw Aher elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the Senate, she rose to the rank of Republican Leader and left her mark on our state in countless ways. She also operated a successful small business.
I first met Senator Winters when I joined the Senate Republican Office in 2004. For most of the next decade I would have the honor of watching and learning from her example. I will always remember driving her to events around the state and listening to the history she lived. On the recent anniversary of the Vanport flood, her experiences with that event take on special meaning. I also remember discussing with her the latest plan we had to trip up the other side. She rarely approved of antics from either side of the political aisle.
During my time with Senator Winters I learned two things which I still carry today. First, it is alright and even expected to work productively with people with whom you sometimes disagree. And second, when you disagree with someone, do not do lasting damage to a relationship in order to score political points.
Senator Winters was masterful at working to pass legislation she believed in with coalitions of lawmakers no matter their political party registration. From health care to public safety, few have left such a legacy in the Oregon State Capitol. Her effectiveness was due to her ability and willingness to put aside party and work for what she believed in. It is a good example for all of us. If we refuse to work with those with whom we disagree, we wall ourselves off and limit our own ability to succeed.
Rarely did Senator Winters engage in any political battles which would cause lasting damage to relationships. The person you disagree with today may be the person you need to get the next bill passed tomorrow. By rushing to score political points you could hamper your chances on the next issue. Applied today, is a single tweet now worth the loss of something you care deeply about in the future?
Senator Winters touched countless lives during her time in the Oregon Capitol. I was blessed to be just one of them. As my wife and I work in our own small business, I try to remember the lessons she so expertly taught.
As Senator Jackie Winters’ era ends in the Capitol it is my hope that members on both sides of the aisle will work to carry on her legacy and remember her lessons.
(Jonathan Thompson, the incomng president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, served as staff in the Senate Republican Office from 2004 to 2013. The last six years as the Caucus Administrator. He currently runs a local small business with his wife.)