SALEM, OR -- State Representative Gene Whisnant will retire at the end of this year, giving up the House District 53 seat he’s occupied for 15 years. He announced in December he would not seek re-election. KBND News caught up with the Sunriver Republican in Salem, during what will be his final Legislative session.
He says it’s the work itself he’ll miss most. "I’ve got some really good assignments I hate to give up. I’m on Capital Construction, which will approve the money for OSU Cascades, and I’m on Ways and Means. I’m on a really important Audits Commission; we just looked at two audits on absenteeism."
In the past, Whisnant has opposed a 35-day February session, saying it's not long enough to appropriately deal with serious issues. However, he appears grateful this short session is keeping his mind off his impending departure. "It’s enough activity, it’s going fast; I don’t think about it too much but it’s going to end," he tells KBND News. "Fifteen years is a long – it’s the longest I’ve ever served in one job." Whisnant adds, "I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘We’re going to miss you,’ and even one person came in and said, ‘Gene, who do you recommend that we go to to get information that you have on children and families issues?’ Because, I’ve worked on Children and families issues for 20 years, through the Commission on Children and Families of Deschutes County, then on a state commission, and then a lot of committees and bills I worked on."
Two Republicans have filed to run for his seat
: Tumalo political activist Ben Schimmoller and Jack Zika, a Redmond realtor. Whisnant isn’t endorsing either, saying he wants to remain neutral through the primary, "I think they’re both good candidates and we’re all replaceable; and we want to hold that seat. I’m excited also for the Republican running for Knute Buehler’s seat. I know her and worked with Cheri [Helt]
on a lot of issues. And I think she will be a very powerful and strong candidate for that seat, too." Two Democrats have filed to run for Whisnant’s District 53 seat in May, as well: Sunriver Consultant Eileen Kiely and Bill Trumble, a retired college administrator who lives in Redmond.
To hear our full conversation with Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), visit our Podcast Page
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Photo: Oregon's House of Representatives listens to the reading of several bills, February 16, 2018.