Merkley Outreach Includes Cave Junction

Merkley Outreach Includes Cave Junction

By:  Scott Jorgenson

While campaigning for office last fall, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley visited more than 100 towns throughout Oregon.

Now, Merkley and his staff are making an extra effort to maintain those contacts, they say, for the sake of providing good constituent services.

On Tuesday, March 10, Cave Junction City Hall was visited by Amy Amrhein, a field representative from Merkley’s office. Amrhein met with Mayor Don Moore and City Recorder Jim Polk to see how the new Democratic senator can help Cave Junction residents.

“She wanted to know how we were doing, what we were doing and gave us information about them setting up a Medford office,” Polk said.

Amrhein is the field representative for the region covering Josephine, Jackson, Coos, Curry and Douglas counties.

Julie Edwards, the communication director for Merkley’s office, said that Amrhein’s visit was part of a larger effort to establish an active presence statewide.

“Part of the work they’re doing is reaching out to cities, towns and county commissioners and touching bases regularly with a local focus to see how we can partner with them to help local communities,” Edwards said. “We’re all in this together, and we want all the communities to do well.”

Moore said that the group met for approximately 90 minutes regarding the community’s needs.

“I was able to convey that we’re extremely hard-hit by this recession, mainly because we don’t have any industry out here and we’re a bedroom community of Grants Pass, which has been hit heavily with layoffs also,” Moore said. “She genuinely seemed like she cared, and wanted to take our message back to our U.S. senator and convey what we think here in Southern Oregon.”

Edwards said that the economy has emerged as the main topic during these outreach efforts.

“Clearly, there are a lot of questions these days about the economic recovery package and how that’s going to work,” she said. “That’s a huge, huge concern right now, is how we can facilitate the creation of jobs and how to make sure communities are having their infrastructure needs met and have what’s needed when it comes to schools and health care.”

Moore said that it was “refreshing” to have a field representative available as a resource.

According to Polk, a staffer from former senator Gordon Smith’s office visited Cave Junction when Smith first was elected. Staffers from Sen. Ron Wyden’s office have called city hall, but never visited, Polk said.

“I think we’ve been neglected here for a long time,” Moore said. “(But) I think we’ve gotten their attention now.”

Recently, Moore met with Jeff Griffin from Gov. Kulongoski’s office, and is helping to coordinate a local retreat for representatives from several state agencies.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease anymore,” said the mayor. “I’m squeaking as loud as I can.”

Edwards said that Merkley has already opened offices in Portland and Eugene, and is in the process of finalizing a location for a Medford office. Future offices are planned for eastern and central Oregon and the Salem area, she said, and Merkley plans to hold yearly town hall meetings in every county.