The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Teresa Purcell seeks District 19 position


Teresa Purcell, who is challenging JD Rossetti to represent the 19th District in the state legislature, was in town recently and stopped by The Eagle to talk before heading over to the Puget Island Farmer's Market. Despite the rain she considered knocking on a few doors before she headed home to Longview.

Purcell decided to run for the state representative for the 19th District for several reasons, not the least being because she felt that the appointment process that made JD Rossetti the state representative was not really fair.

"I feel like that is an important part of the process," she said of the coming election. "We need to have a dynamic debate. We need to have people competing for votes, people laying out ideas.

"I feel like our district could use so much; we have so many challenges."

Purcell grew up in Longview and returned there nine years ago after living in Seattle, Washington D.C. and Olympia.

"I worked on my first campaign in 1984 when I was in college," Purcell said. "I've always been politically active; my family was always politically active."

She has been a lobbyist, a legislative staff person, an executive director and has owned her own consulting practice for the last 15 years.

"I've worked with organizations on strategic planning and organizational development in public education," Purcell said. "I work on how we impact public policy and build campaigns to impact public policies."

Since she's come home, she has volunteered for several projects, including being a founding board member for both the Lower Columbia School Gardens and the Longview Public School Foundation. She was on a Vision 20/20 for Cowlitz County committee as well.

"I kept bumping up against elected officials saying, 'It's always been that way' or 'we tried that 25 years ago' or 'we don't get the support we need from the state', etc.," Purcell said.

"My agenda is the people's agenda," she said. "My agenda is about going out and asking people what we need and what they need in their communities to help their communities to do better. Coming in from on high and saying x, y, z needs to happen is never a recipe for success; it's about bringing people together and really focusing on the fact that you can't just fix one thing. You have to be working on multiple things."

Multiple things like diversification and housing, infrastructure and health care. Education.

"How do we make sure that there are cool places like this that are able to thrive?" Purcell asked. "Diversification of what is available. You can't just be reliant on just one industry or just one type of industry or just one model of industry. If we bring in new kinds of 21st century focused businesses, bring in amenities, talk about the partnerships that can make those things happen so small businesses can thrive, and they hire 10 people, that is the backbone of a working and thriving community and thriving small businesses."

"One of the issues that I've talked about is infrastructure," she continued. "There is no reason in the world that we should not be able to make cell phone calls or have access to high speed internet and WiFi everywhere in Washington state."

'If we had internet infrastructure," she said, "how hard would it be have somebody sit in a coffee shop once a week to help people do what they needed to do to get access to benefits from a state agency? That is the kind of innovative and creative thinking that acknowledges that the world has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years with technology. It hasn't necessarily here. How do we make that happen and how do we make sure we are not punishing people who are least able to absorb spending three hours driving to Kelso, paying for gas, paying for child care, missing time away from work to be able to do all the things they need to do. It seems like we put more barriers in place to people who are trying to thrive. If you are trying to get your GED, do you really need to drive to Kelso? How do we facilitate those partnerships that can make it feasible for people in rural communities to thrive and make progress in ways that don't feel impossible?"

Purcell talked about making sure that rural schools are as strong and diverse as other school systems.

"Oftentimes," she said, "the funding mechanisms and different pieces make it much more difficult for rural schools to get the resources and staffing that they need to help the students thrive."

Purcell acknowledged the housing problem and how it affected rural communities, making it hard for people to return to the towns they grew up in and create a life of their own.

"Housing at every income level is a huge problem," she said. "We haven't really been building anything in this area for 30 years. Regardless of whether you are 22 or 85 it's a crisis. Regardless of your income level."

"The vast majority of the population in the state does not live in rural communities," she said. "So we have a whole bunch of people who are making really critical decisions that impact rural communities without any understanding of how different life is in rural communities."

"In this area there are so many assets and so much beauty, and the people are so wonderful, but there has been a lot of 'well, no that can't happen' or 'that's too hard'."

"Paul Wellstone said, 'We all do better when we all do better,'" Purcell said. "My mantra is you've got to listen, you've got to be intentional, and you've got to be optimistic. That is another thing that I think is missing from the conversation."


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