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Mark Johnson resigns House, takes job with business group

MARK JOHNSON listens along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at an economic development meeting last month in Cascade Locks.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill.
MARK JOHNSON listens along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at an economic development meeting last month in Cascade Locks.

State Representative Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) announced Friday he would retire from the Legislature effective Nov. 6.

Johnson, who has represented House District 52 since his election in 2011, will be leaving the Legislature to serve as the president and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry (OBI), created July 1, 2017, through the merger of Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) and Oregon Business Association (OBA).

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Mark Johnson

“It has been an incredible privilege to represent the people of House District 52 for the last six years,” said Johnson via press release. “I will be forever grateful for the relationships I have made with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, my constituents in the district and the thousands of Oregonians I had the opportunity to interact with throughout my time in office.”

Johnson owns his own construction business and also serves as chairman of the Hood River County School District Board.

“I think it’s a great decision for Mark and I think it will be a great choice for those two organizations merging,” said State Sen. Chuck Thomsen of Pine Grove. “He’s been a moderate voice in Salem and with the makeup of the Legislature, he’ll help that group work with the businesses he represents to get legislation passed, because he’s worked well with both sides. He’ll have a broader scope; he’ll be working closely with Senate side, the House leadership and the Governor.

“The (Dist. 52) community will miss him (in the House),” said Thomsen, a fellow Republican who entered the Legislature at the same time as Johnson. “Mark and I have worked tirelessly together on constituent issues in Hood River, Cascade Locks, Sandy, and sometimes we worked together on those things and sometimes separately, but Mark did a great job in his six years.

“These jobs weren’t meant for us to be in them forever. It’ll be tough to fill his shoes,” said Thomsen, who plans to run again in 2018.

Johnson’s resignation will trigger an appointment process in accordance with Oregon law. Republican precinct committee persons residing in House District 52 will vote to nominate 3-5 candidates to fill the vacancy. County commissioners from Hood River, Clackamas and Multnomah Counties will then vote to select the next state representative for the district. The vacancy must be filled within 30 days of the date of Rep. Johnson’s resignation.

“We represented this district well because we’re moderates, and I think that’s who will continue to represent this district. We fit the district well,” said Thomsen.

Oregon Business & Industry’s website states it is “Oregon's largest and most influential comprehensive business association advocating for a strong economy and a healthy, prosperous and competitive Oregon. Members participate with other business leaders committed to growing Oregon’s economy, quality jobs for our citizens, and healthy communities. OBI also offers members money-saving services.”

The OBI mission is “to strengthen Oregon’s economy in order to achieve a healthy, prosperous and competitive Oregon for the benefit of present and future generations.”

“While it is difficult to walk away from the Legislature, I am excited to have the opportunity to make an impact in a new way,” Johnson said. “I continue to believe that if we can set aside the partisanship and focus on doing right by the people of Oregon, there is no limit to what we can accomplish regardless of the role we are serving in.”

In his four terms as a member of the Oregon House, Johnson championed Oregon’s innovate tuition free community college program known as the “Oregon Promise,” sought to find common ground between environmental and industry advocates on climate policy, fought for stronger rail safety laws to protect the Columbia River Gorge and was a tenacious advocate for structural spending reforms that would allow for greater investments in public education.

“Few legislators command the kind of respect Rep. Johnson does from folks on both sides of the aisle,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte), in a press release from Johnson’s office. “He is a policy wonk, a problem solver, and a friend to many. Our caucus will greatly miss his intellect and his work ethic.”

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