Hi, my name is Jesse S. Smith. I’m the Democratic candidate for the Oregon State House of Representatives for District 18 in 2022.
I first got into this contest because, as a parent of two children attending the local public schools, I want to see Oregon do better for its public schools.
Once I had decided to run, I began looking more closely at how my opponent has been using his seat as the incumbent. Looking at my opponent’s record firmly convinced me that someone has to hold him accountable! You can click here to read a blog post that describes key differences between myself and the incumbent, Republican Rick Lewis.
In the space below, I’d like to introduce myself, my values, and how I believe my experiences can benefit the fine people of Oregon State House District 18.
When I was born, my father was a mechanic and my mother was a nurse.
I grew up on a small family farm, bucking hay bales and raising livestock. I sold pigs to raise the money to buy a horse; and I sold the horse so I could buy my first car. This experience taught me a love for the land, the value of hard work, and the potential of entrepreneurship.
As I grew up, my parents both went back to school. My mother became a Nurse Practitioner who served the public in hospitals and health clinics, as well as in addictions recovery, and in the sometimes challenging but essential job of providing health care to prison inmates. Her philosophy of service and compassion runs deep in my family. Meanwhile my father also went back to school, and before his untimely death he became the managing vice president of a local small business. His experience taught me the importance of hard work, and the individual’s ability to achieve great things in this land of opportunity.
Pay Workers Fair Wages
I worked for minimum wage through my teen years and early adulthood, beginning with my first job at a well-known fast-food chain when I was 15 years old. A co-worker at the fast-food restaurant told me that he also had to work a second job at a chicken farm just to support his family. This experience convinced me that the minimum wage should be a living wage. We must raise the minimum wage, and we must pay all workers fairly: both to encourage workers to return to the labor market in the present, and to raise working families out of poverty over the long term.
I attended the local community college for a year (concurrent with my Senior year of High School) before I left my home town. Many of my fellow students at the community college were twice my age. From this experience, I learned the value of community colleges in providing ongoing education and job skills training to local community members.
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in English from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. It was an excellent experience. I would like everyone to have access to quality education. As part of that experience, I completed some of my coursework overseas in Europe, where I learned about the publicly funded education and health care systems enjoyed by the people who live in most of the other economically advanced nations of this world: and ever since then, I have been an advocate for emulating the best aspects of those systems here in the United States.
After college, I worked a season as a union member at a fishing cannery in Alaska; I worked at OMSI for several years because science is real; and I taught at a foreign language school overseas, which was a transformative experience worthy of its own book. I also worked for several years in the commercial printing and packaging industry.
My work in the B2B commercial printing and packaging industry is what initially got me interested in marketing, graphic design, and the (then-emerging) field of website development, which has been my focus for much of my adulthood.
Computer programming. I taught myself to code by reading programming textbooks while riding the bus to my day job in Portland. (I recently took a skills assessment on LinkedIn, and scored in the top 5% of all participants, out of more than half a million other people who had taken the same test in my field.) As your Representative, I would benefit our community by leveraging this understanding of computer science concepts as we work to improve network security and rural Internet access for the people of the great State of Oregon.
Business school. After several years in the workforce, I decided to start my own business. To that end, I went back to school, and earned my MBA in Marketing from City University of Seattle. This experience has taught me what a burden student loan debt can place on working families when they’re just starting out. Through my Master’s degree program, I also learned essential business skills like Project Management; and how to read financial statements like balance sheets and statements of cash flows. I believe this knowledge will be key in helping me serve the people of the great State of Oregon as a member of the Oregon State House of Representatives.
How it’s going. I moved to the Mid-Willamette Valley to launch a new brand in 2012, shortly after I earned my MBA. In that capacity, I joined the Silverton Chamber of Commerce and the Salem Chamber of Commerce. I went to meetings, and spoke with dozens of local small business owners and community leaders. That venture is no longer my main occupation; but I have learned a tremendous amount from the experience.
Personal transformation. In my forties, I developed an interest in fitness, motivation, and self-help books. I began participating in challenges, from the NaNoWriMo writing challenge to the “75 Hard” mental toughness challenge. I lost weight, improved my attitude, and refocused my life on my values and priorities. That path has led me to declaring a candidacy for the Oregon State House of Representatives. I would like to apply the principles of self-help to the work of governance: a belief in the possibility of change, and a focus on the positive values and priorities that make us better humans, values like compassion, dignity, and respect.
Full-time parenting. Presently, my work as a full-time Dad keeps me on my feet for many hours each day. I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife who is a successful professional, and two great kids who are always very energetic. I essentially homeschooled my kids during the pandemic lockdowns: from March of 2020 through the school year that ended in June of 2021. I don’t know how single parent families do it. I have the utmost respect for working parents.
During these past few years, I have also been creating motivational videos; self-publishing my books; and preparing to re-release my catalog of original songs; as well as part-time website development and business consulting work.
A belief in change
I am a local Dad who wants to see the public schools fully funded. I’m also an author, musician, web developer, and world traveler.
In my travels, I have spent time in the developing world, where the absence of labor laws and environmental regulations has led to widespread poverty and unbelievable pollution. But I have also spent time in Europe, where publicly funded social services provide a higher standard of living for everyone.
In my life, I have worked for minimum wage; and I have started a business of my own. I taught myself to code, and I learned accounting principles in business school.
The first step to making a change, is to believe that change is possible.
I believe change is possible.
I want to bring the strength of that belief to the Oregon Legislature, where I will champion changes in public policy, to benefit the people of the state of Oregon and my fellow residents and community members here in House District 18.
You can help make these changes happen when you donate to this campaign today.