Jeanne Deane was the Democratic candidate for Oregon House District 20 in the 2004 election.
On February 10th, 2012 Steve Baker, Jelena Boskovic, Jaden Kaufman, Colin McHill, and Josiah Liedkie had the opportunity to interview former candidate Jeanne Deane. Ms. Deane is a very influential leader. From the time she was a young woman working at the State Department in Washington D.C., she was interested in becoming actively involved in politics and making a difference in people’s lives. She later became involved with Western Oregon University students and really pushed them to do the best they could do in school.
While working at the university, Ms. Deane was not ready to give up on her political work. In 2003 she decided to run for the 2004 election for Oregon State Representative as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Vicki Berger. She also was one of the founders of Abby’s House Center for Women and Families on the Western Oregon University campus. Ms. Deane was actively involved in The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and the annual Academic Excellence Showcase on campus. Ms. Deane was also president, vice-president, secretary-treasurer and steward of SEIU Local 503, OPEU Local 082. She did so much for our school and, county, and helped so many people in need. We were honored to be interviewing her.
Q: What and who inspired you to run for office?
Response: “An acquaintance called me and said, ‘Vicki Berger has no one running against her. This is not a fair way to run a campaign and have an election. We think you’re qualified, “would you please run?’ And I did it, and it was 15 minutes before the end of filing time. I had no time to think about it, which was good because I immediately took care of that. And so that’s how it happened, but you need someone running against a person because you need to hear the opposing views and decide: Who do I support? Do I want to go with this candidate or that? So it gave people an opportunity to hear how both candidates felt about the issues.
“There is an issue that I thought was kind of important. You know the yellow signs at school where you have to slow down to 20 m.p.h.? When they initially made this law, which was in 2003 or the year before I ran…, you had to do that every day, 24 hours a day and during vacations, and it was a law in any school area. Whether children were there or not you did that …I did not think that was right. During school hours 20 m.p.h. was good but why do that during summer vacation when there were no students around? So they did change that the next time they had an opportunity to do so. I’m sure people have mentioned it before, but it just didn’t work for them.”
Q: What are the challenges and rewards for women who participate in politics through campaigns and running for office, in your opinion and experience?
Response: “The experience, that’s good, and there are challenges, of course, of time and being able to spend time with family and friends, and I continued to work. I also ended up going out to interviews and to the forums and to house parties. It’s a very time-consuming thing. Not to mention knocking on doors and phoning, and all the things that go into a campaign. It’s difficult to run a successful campaign.”
Q: How did this compare to a man running for the same position?
Response: “Well of course we were both women, but the forums, and everybody got the same questions. However they responded, they had to send the responses to the people who were doing the forums. And you would come and answer the questions when asked and then more follow-up questions were asked. And men had to do the same things.”
Q: What have you done and what could Oregonians do to promote civic participation?
Response: “When I worked for the City of Monmouth, I did participate in the planning commission in the city. I was the secretary but at the same time I learned about everything that was going on. I was an employee of the city. It is very important for people to get involved in the government, when they have a topic of interest, for example regarding children, safety, health, that the city or state can take care of. There are a lot of committees and boards. People can really participate in this kind of thing and have their voice heard.”
Q: The article about you in Western Oregon’s newspaper The Journal states that you were not satisfied with just a 9 to 5 job. What was your motivation to become such an influential leader here at Western Oregon University?
Response: “I think I needed that extra outside influence to keep me going. I had that extra energy and it was important to me, and when it’s important, you really want to work at it and make sure you are successful.”
Q: Can you share your views of the importance of women’s vote, what has been important in the past and how that compares to the present?
Response: “Women have different perspectives on most if not all issues, and I think it’s important that they get out there and make the issues known, even if that changes some things. I don’t know if you remember or if you were too young, but Vicki Berger’s father [Oregon State Representative Richard Chambers]… tackled the issue of cleaning up bottles and cans littering public streets and sidewalks, and he introduced the Bottle Bill. Later, Vicki Berger herself would instigate the same movement against discarded bottles and cans on sidewalks and roadways. I know [former Oregon Governor] Barbara Roberts would not have gotten involved in politics if it weren’t for her son. He was an autistic child, and he could not go very far in school. She pushed and lobbied at the legislature for children with disabilities to be involved with mainstream schools…Yes, men had supported them, but the forefront for these issues was women who initiated them again.”
Q: What was your main issue that you wanted to tackle?
Response: “That school one was very important at the time for me. But there were a lot of other issues I stood behind. But I am a Democrat and so it’s those kinds of issues I support. But these latest ones that [have] come up regarding contraceptives being an issue … women need to have the option of contraceptives available to them, and they shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money to get contraceptives.”
Q: What are some specific ways that you could promote women to get involved with civic and political issues?
Response: “I think you need to speak with them and personally invite them to get involved. When they are interested in a certain issue, it is easier to get them involved. But it’s difficult when women are working and have families. Women usually deal with more than men.”
Jeanne Deane was a fantastic interviewee and was able to give us, as students, a chance to learn the actual process of an interview, and the means by which we keep history alive. Ms. Deane, as a former staff member of Western Oregon University’s Social Science Division, Monmouth City planning commission participant, and a former candidate for state representative, was a valuable resource as we looked at the current status of women’s enfranchisement. Deane’s record of civic participation and community participation was stirring; when viewing her life’s work it is evident that she is a woman of initiative, who really cares for the issues that the modern woman faces today. She was a pleasure to talk to, and a striking example of individual participation as an effective means to transform a community.