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Council Corner: Getting acquainted with Traci Darrow

Since this is my first Council Corner after being appointed to the City Council on Feb. 21, I thought I should let readers know more about me.

Who is this person? Where did she come from?

I was born and grew up in Lebanon, Ore. Although I am a fifth-generation Oregonian, only one line of my family has been in Oregon since Oregon Trail days. So in many ways I am an example of the American melting pot.

My paternal grandfather was half Native American. My paternal grandmother was a child of Scottish immigrants who came to Oregon during the Dust Bowl. My maternal grandfather was from an early American family who first settled in Tennessee and then migrated to Oregon via the Oregon Trail and homesteaded near present-day Brownsville. My maternal grandmother was a first-generation immigrant whose family came through Ellis Island. They were from eastern Europe and eventually settled in Scio, at the time a Slavic community. I was very close to my grandmother and learned from her several Czech exclamations, which, once translated to English, should not be used in polite conversation.

I was never a particularly athletic child. I joined the middle school softball team. We were allowed an extra infield position called a rover, basically an additional shortstop. My very astute coach would evaluate the opposing team’s batters and strategically place me in the area she felt the ball was least likely to land.

I moved to Ashland in 1984 for two reasons: it was far away from the cement skies of the Willamette Valley and also as far south as I could go and not pay out-of-state tuition. In those days one could still (mostly) work their way through college, and I did so waiting tables at Munchies and typing exams in the Social Science office. My children are aghast when I tell them I graduated college without the use of a computer or the internet. They look at me completely perplexed, so I usually add something like “and we communicated through cave painting as well.”

I graduated from then SOSC in 1989 and I credit any early successes to several key individuals who believed in me and gave me opportunities to prove myself:

Former Bloomsbury Books co-owner and State Rep. Nancy Peterson was a friend, a mentor and, when I needed it, an adopted mother as well. I miss her acutely at times.

Professor Bill Meulemans made political activism seem edgy and exciting, and Professor and former City Councilor Don Laws had an in-depth knowledge of public administration and a talent for evaluating policy between the practical and the vision.

I worked early years in the state Legislature and on campaigns between sessions. As history would have it I moved back to Ashland permanently in 1996 to open the then first-ever U.S. Senate office outside the Willamette Valley for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who has an unshakeable commitment to representing all of Oregon. I worked the southwest Oregon region and learned a tremendous amount on innumerable issues. I would also occasionally arrange unscheduled constituent outreach events at HomeTown Buffet, as the senator and I shared an affinity for their macaroni and cheese and fried chicken.

I returned to school and graduated with honors from the OHSU School of Nursing in 2007. I worked in acute care, dementia care, mental health and dialysis. I also worked community health as an RN Case Manager and also on a leadership team navigating the realities of health care reform. My experience working in health care reaffirmed my dedication to working with the underserved in our community. This is, and will remain, one of my highest priorities.

I have a blended family now and my almost-adult children are a constant reminder to me that I never know as much as I think I know. I also see the planet through their eyes.

Climate change will affect them and their children in ways I cannot fathom. I have stated that the actions we take on climate change will be the measure of how history judges our generation. But that is for another Council Corner.

— Traci Darrow is a member of the Ashland City Council.