• Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson Visits Mt. Hood Community College

    On Monday, May 15, Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson visited Mt. Hood Community College, making his first public appearance at a college or university in Oregon since taking office on January 2. During his visit, Secretary Richardson offered advice to students considering public service, discussed what convinced him to enter politics after decades of working in law, and spoke about the important role community colleges play in meeting workforce demands.

    Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson
    welcomed by members of the
    MHCC Associated Student Government.

    Secretary Richardson was invited to MHCC by the Associated Student Government and by MHCC alum Larry Morgan, Richardson’s citizen engagement and inclusion coordinator. During the afternoon visit, the Secretary of State met with MHCC President Debbie Derr and staffers, spoke to a political science class, and talked with members of the ASG and The Advocate newspaper.

    While speaking to a class taught by political science instructor Janet Campbell, Richardson said that the opportunities to serve one’s community should not be overlooked and can occur at all stages of life. For him, it was a biography on Benjamin Franklin, and how the Founding Father achieved many of his political accomplishments during the latter half of his life, that encouraged Richardson to first pursue public service in his late 40s. Drawing parallels to Franklin’s life, Richardson remarked that he spent the first half of his own life working as an attorney, raising his nine children with his wife, and establishing a good life for him and his family.

    “Take what you learn [at Mt. Hood Community College], get a decent job, be able to provide for yourself, start building relationships for the long term and gain life experience,” said Richardson. “And you can serve at any level; serve in your family, serve in your neighborhood…As you get older, you can expand those pursuits.”

    Secretary Richardson addresses
    a political science class.

    From 1996 to 2000, Richardson served as chairman of the Oregon Republican Party’s Second Congressional District. In 2000, he was elected to the city council of Central Point, Oregon. His city council tenure inspired him to run for state office, and from 2003 to 2015 Richardson represented Oregon’s 4th congressional district in the Oregon House of Representatives. In 2014, he narrowly missed a bid for the governorship. And in November 2016, Richardson became the first Republican to win a statewide election in Oregon since 2002 and the state’s first Republican Secretary of State since 1980.

    In his current position, Secretary Richardson has focused on bringing new companies to Oregon and on reducing “red tape” for existing businesses. He points to the important role community colleges play in workforce and economic development throughout Oregon.

    “The focus that community colleges have on filling the needs of business and industry, and on providing trained employees where needed, is critical,” said Richardson. “Because the last time I looked, we had roughly 30,000 jobs that were going unfilled in Oregon because employers couldn’t find candidates with the right skill sets.”

    Before leaving the class, Richardson encouraged students to exercise their civic rights and to vote on May 16.

    “It’s one thing that you can do to participate in the government right now,” he said. “Have your voice heard, because every vote does count – I assure you that’s the truth.”

    Secretary Richardson speaks with the editorial team at The Advocate.