By State Representative Rob Nosse
About once a month someone asks me how I got into politics or what is it like to be a state representative. Here is what a typical day or week might look like for me.
I wake up around 5 or 5:30 am. I have coffee and read newspapers, some physical papers, and lots of online ones to wake up my brain and quickly learn about what is going on around our state, nation and sometimes world (though I tend to skim international news). Reading the news is a pretty important part of this job.
After two cups of coffee, I start reading emails. I get a lot of them. I have help reviewing them all, but even with help it is hard to keep up with all the email my staff believes I should actually read. I read and attempt to write thoughtful replies until about 9 am.
To do this job well requires a lot of meetings where you are listening. I try to just listen to what is on people’s minds, their thoughts and ideas. Years of student, community and union organizing before this role have taught me you don’t convince anyone by arguing with them and telling them they are wrong.
Most people have to change their minds on their own. So, I listen to a lot of people – my voters, my friends, my family, experts, agency leaders, employees, other politicians and of course advocates for all sorts of causes and ideas. Ideally, by listening I learn something, as there is A LOT I don’t know and maybe my mind gets changed about an approach to a problem or a policy.
My “lanes” in the legislature these days are healthcare and mental/behavioral health. I am currently chairing the health care committee and the behavioral health committee. Chairing policy committees is both an honor and a daunting task. As has been said many times, health care in the US is complicated and our behavioral health system in Oregon has many challenges. I have also worked on issues important to workers, tax fairness, as well as the budgets for health care and human services programs.
In general, if you are a constituent, business owner, employer, or a non-profit leader or organization based in SE Portland, I am going to prioritize your concerns and needs. That is why I spend a lot of time checking in on housing and houselessness, which is probably the top concern for many of my constituents.
I fit in as many meetings as I can. I grab a coffee or soda water at least twice a day, read more emails, check in with my staff and other representatives and their legislative staff several times a day and then ideally, I am done by 5:30 or 6 pm. But there is often a meeting, happy hour or dinner that takes up my evening. I sometimes check emails and return phone calls in the evening and during campaign season I might be out talking with voters, attending a community meeting or fundraising. Whether you like it or not, it takes a bit of money to run for office and get your message out.
I might read a few more newspaper articles, but I also try to enjoy a good meal with my husband or friends along with a glass of wine or two. I like to cook and I am not too bad. So once in a while I make dinner, though probably not as often as my husband does. Maybe I watch a movie or binge on TV shows while I iron my dress shirts. Yes, I do my own ironing. It is a way to keep awake while watching TV, it saves a little money even though people have told me dry cleaning for dress shirts isn’t that expensive.
I work on the weekends, too, catching up on email, taking meetings with people that cannot meet during the week and during election cycles there is campaigning and fundraising. I also take time to read more detailed reports that I just could not find time to read during the week. Yes, I work a lot. This is a job where you can always do more.
Lastly, as I am starting to run over my word count, I got into politics a bit by accident because of my involvement in student government in college. I became the student senator for my dorm my sophomore year. How I got to Oregon and became active in Oregon politics takes more words than I have space for. I’ll save that for another time.