By Stephen Hamway, The Bend Bulletin
After longtime Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian declared he will not run again in 2018, the position is open to a slate of three newcomers.
Jack Howard, Val Hoyle and Lou Ogden will face off in the primary election for the nonpartisan position May 15.
The bureau covers a variety of workforce-related topics, from developing skilled labor in Oregon to enforcing state and federal wage and hour laws and preventing housing discrimination.
Howard, 58, said he’s been interested in labor relations for decades and has planned on running for labor commissioner for about as long.
“I view this as more than an elected position; I view this as a calling,” Howard said.
Howard has served as a Union County commissioner for more than three years, and said he was proud of his role in establishing a health clinic in Elgin, and developing a new master plan for the La Grande/Union County Airport. He added that his time serving on the County Commission as Democrat in a heavily Republican county has helped him engage with people on all portions of the political spectrum.
Howard believes the focus in the primary race should be squarely on poverty, and said the labor commissioner can do more to alleviate it. He called for Oregon to make poverty reduction the focus for all of the bureau’s programs, while reducing the social stigma around it. Additionally, he wanted to see a focus on addressing affordable housing from a statewide perspective, looking holistically at the interplay between workforce and housing.
“Affordable, quality housing is the centerpiece, the Rosetta Stone,” Howard said.
Val Hoyle, 54, was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2010, serving District 14 on the northwest edge of Eugene. Hoyle served through 2017 and was elected as House majority leader in 2012.
While she served as a Democrat, Hoyle said her time representing a moderate district gave her experience working with both Republicans and Democrats, a skill she believes will help her as labor commissioner.
“You can disagree without being disagreeable,” Hoyle said.
Funding for career technical education — which melds academic and technical skills for students — was a focus for Hoyle during her time in the House, and she said she plans to make it a priority as BOLI commissioner if elected. She wants to work with other departments to make sure enough resources are going toward the program, while collaborating with the private sector to ensure the training matches up with existing jobs.
“My work style is different from the current BOLI commissioner,” Hoyle said. “I have a very collaborative leadership style.
Ogden, 63, has been the mayor of Tualatin for the past 24 years. During his time in office, the Portland suburb attracted a branch of Lam Research, a California-based tech company that is the city’s largest employer. Ogden also oversaw the development of Bridgeport Village, an outdoor shopping mall that spans Tualatin and nearby Tigard, along with new roads and schools. He said his ability to collaborate sets him apart.
“In my time as mayor, I’ve done nothing by myself,” he said.
In addition to bringing together labor, industry and educational leaders, Ogden said he wants the bureau to improve its relationships with the community. He described the enforcement of certain rules as “overly aggressive.”
“When I ask people about BOLI, it’s a similar reaction to asking about the IRS,” Ogden said.