It took me three phone calls to get some time with Senator Betsy Johnson, not because she didn’t want to talk to me, but because she has constant demands on her time. The phone was always ringing in the background and notifications dinging. It must be difficult to be a Senator and to be constantly pulled in different directions, but Senator Johnson is not complaining. She made it very clear that although she works tirelessness for the State of Oregon, she enjoys her work.
Senator Betsy Johnson is a Democrat serving her third term in the Oregon State Senate and represents the 16th Senate District, which includes the cities of Astoria, Tillamook, and Seaside. She began serving in the House in 2000, and was appointed to succeed Joan Dukes who had vacated the seat in 2005. She was elected to the seat a year later.
Senator Johnson was quick to point out that she comes from a family of public servants. “My parents were wonderful examples,” she said. It sounds like it’s in her blood. Her father, Sam Johnson, was in the Legislature for 14 years, but unlike his daughter, he was a Republican. Her Mother was in education policy and ran their family foundation.
I asked her what life is like as a Senator, and she admits that she sometimes misses her previous life as a helicopter pilot. They owned a helicopter company for decades. She smiles as she recalls piloting a helicopter over Mt. St. Helens not long after the 1980 eruption with a writer from Time Magazine by her side. Her sister, now a nurse, was also a corporate pilot for a bank for many years. It seems that courage and grit run deep her genes, and that’s exactly the kind of person we want to represent our interests in the Legislature.
She said that what a lot of constituents don’t understand is that they don’t just work when the Legislature is in session. Even during recess she’s working non-stop. She works late into the night and through the weekend as budget writer and cochair for the State of Oregon Ways and Means Committee. Oregon requires a balanced budget, so imagine how hard of a job it is balance an 85 billion dollar budget, especially when everything seems under resourced. Imagine trying to divide funds between education, security, environmental protection, and infrastructure, just to name a few.
When asked what she does in her spare time she laughed that hearty laugh of hers. I get the distinct feeling she doesn’t get much free time! Senator Betsy Johnson lives with her husband of 33 years. They have no children and three cats. They had St. Bernard’s in prior years, but these days the kitty’s demand all of their affection.
She and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici work closely together to make a positive difference in our communities. Bonamici has represented the First Congressional District of Oregon since 2012, and the district includes Clatsop, Washington, Yamhill, and Columbia counties, as well as parts of Multnomah County. Congresswoman Bonamici is a leader on the Education and Labor Committee, and also serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. Together, they are determined to create policies that ensure a strong future for the State of Oregon.
I inquired as to her biggest accomplishments as a Senator and she said, “Little victories are big victories to the families involved.” Not long ago she helped a family adopt a child. To Senator Johnson, that’s a big victory and a perfect example of the positive impact she’s making.
She promises to continue to work diligently as Senator of District 16 and welcomes input from the communities and constituents that she represents. Learn more about Senator Betsy Johnson and all the bills and laws in progress on her official website. You can also contact her by e-mail at Betsy@betsyjohnson.com, or by phone at (503) 986-1716 or (503) 543-4046. She said she never knows who’s going to be on the other end of that line. Perhaps it will be you!