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Former State Senate President Takes Oregon NWPPC Post

by Barry Espenson
Columbia Basin Bulletin - November 15, 2002

The face of Oregon's Northwest Power Planning Council delegation is rapidly changing with the state's former Senate president, Republican Gene Derfler, on Nov. 8 taking the seat that has been held by John Brogoitti.

The second of two Oregon spots on the NWPPC will shift from Eric Bloch to Melinda Eden on Jan. 1. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber made the appointments last week.

Brogoitti caused a stir this past summer when he lashed out at Kitzhaber as having an overly "green" or environmental agenda that Brogoitti said ignored the needs of agriculture and natural resource and other industry. Kitzhaber appointed fellow Democrat Brogoitti to the Council in 1995.

Brogoitti was asked to resign in August but refused. His three-year term had expired on Jan. 15 of this year and Kitzhaber had not acted to reappoint Brogoitti. The state statute that guides NWPPC appointments says a NWPPC member can continue to serve until a successor is appointed and confirmed. Eden was in August appointed by Kitzhaber to fill Brogoitti's position. The governor asked that the appropriate committee act on Eden's appointment in September, but her appointment did not make the committee's agenda. Ultimately the Republican-chaired committee cancelled its September meeting as the special budget sessions absorbed state Legislature's attention.

With last week's announced Jan. 1 resignation of Bloch, Kitzhaber switched tactics, appointing Derfler to replace Brogoitti and Eden to replace Bloch.

The Senate Interim Committee on Rules and Executive Appointments convened Nov. 7 and confirmed the appointments during its morning session. The full Senate confirmed Derfler and Eden that afternoon.

Derfler's appointment was effective Nov. 8 and runs through Jan. 15, 2005.

Eden's appointment is effective on Jan. 1 and the term expires on Jan. 15, 2004. She will complete the term begun by Bloch. Both step into positions with $96,000 salaries.

Derfler participated this week during the Council's meeting in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho -- as part of the full Council and as a Fish and Wildlife Committee member. Eden attended the meeting.

Brogoitti, a Pendleton area farmer, had previously served on Oregon's Land Conservation and Development Commission. Bloch was appointed in 1998, having previously worked in the Oregon Department of Justice as an assistant attorney general in the special litigation unit.

The winter, spring and summer of 2002 has been vexing for Oregon's NWPPC contingent, and the man that appointed them.

Kitzhaber this spring and summer pushed for a Council bylaw change that would have required the chairmanship to rotate every two years from state to state. The initiative came after Washington Councilor Larry Cassidy had carried the day during January elections, winning the Council leadership post for the third straight year. The chairmanship has been held nine years by Washington, six by Montana, four by Idaho and three by Oregon.

Brogoitti said last summer that the governor and fellow Oregon council member Eric Bloch felt that Bloch was snubbed in a January election for the chairmanships because the other states feared he would use the leadership position as an environmental "bully pulpit." Bloch had served as vice chair for the previous two years.

The governors of Washington, Montana and Idaho panned the proposal, as did their Council members in votes on the proposed bylaw changes.

Brogoitti, though frustrated by the chain of events that led to his ouster, said he wished the new councilors well. He said he hoped they kept economic interests in mind during important decision-making processes, such as the ongoing process to amend mainstem hydrosystem provisions of the Council fish and wildlife program.

"It's vital to agriculture and industry," he said.

With Oregon's changing of the guard, Montana's Ed Bartlett was appointed by Cassidy to serve as chairman of the Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee. That position had been held by Brogoitti.

"John did a tremendous job on the Council and as chair of the fish and wildlife Committee, and we will miss him," Bartlett said this week.

Derfler, of Salem, decided to call it quits after 14 years in Oregon's citizen Legislature, resigning his post. He had opted not to run for re-election in District 10 this year.

Derfler was born in Portland in 1924 and moved with his family to Woodland, Wash., at age 8. He attended Western Washington College for a time before joining the Navy during the World War II.

After the war, ended, Derfler and his wife Thelma returned to Portland.. The family eventually settled in Salem. The successful businessman -- first owning a furniture and appliance business and then working in real estate -- has served on the board of directors of the YMCA, Cascade Employers, Goodwill Industries, Gilbert House, and Rotary. He has also served on various school committees and is a member of a Blue Ribbon Committee that studies and makes recommendations for excellence in Salem schools. He is also a member of the Salem Chamber of Commerce and on the Highland Neighborhood Group Salem Transit Board

First elected in 1988 to the state Legislature as a state representative, Derfler was re-elected by his constituents three times. In 1994, he was first elected to the state Senate. In 1997, his second session in the Senate, he was chosen to be the Senate Majority Leader. In 1998, Derfler was again re-elected in Senate District 10.

At the start of the 2001 session, Derfler was selected President of the Senate.

Throughout his legislative career Derfler said he has been keenly interested in Columbia River basin governance and regional power issues.

"Low-cost power in the Northwest is the key to our economy," Derfler said. He called the Columbia River the region's best asset -- enabling power generation, flood control, navigation and irrigation as well as other uses.

"All of the uses of the river are important," Derfler said. His interest in serving on the Council come from a desire to ensure that all of those assets are maintained, including socially and economically valuable fish and wildlife stocks.

Although not party mates, Derfler said he and Kitzhaber have worked well together on many issues.

"He didn't ask me where I stand on issues," Derfler said of the governor's evaluation process. The former state senator did say Kitzhaber "realizes that I won't be as much of an environmentalist as he is." But the governor was confident that the new councilor would "do what is good for Oregon."

Likewise, Derfler said he works well with Oregon governor-elect, Ted Kulongoski, most recently a state Supreme Court justice.

"Ted's a good friend of mine," Derfler said.

Eden is from Milton-Freewater, Ore. She is a farmer-viticulturist, a former herd manager, and also works as a hazardous substances attorney. She has served since 1996 on the state's Environmental Quality Commission, which oversees Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality. She has been that panel's chair since 1999.

Eden earned her bachelor's degree in journalism in 1966 from the University of Maryland and earned her law degree from the University of Oregon in 1981. She worked for firms in Portland and Eugene before opening private practice in Milton-Freewater in 1992. She worked for six years in the 1970s as an Associated Press state government reporter and, for a time, state sports editor.

The Council was authorized in the Northwest Power Act of 1980 and approved by a vote of the legislatures of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.. The governor of each state appoints two members to serve on the Council. The Council is charged with developing a long-term power plan to guarantee an adequate and reliable energy at the lowest cost to the region and developing a program to protect and rebuild fish and wildlife populations affected by hydropower development in the Columbia River Basin. The NWPPC fish and wildlife program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration at about $186 million per year.

Barry Espenson
Former State Senate President Takes Oregon NWPPC Post
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 15, 2002

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