Public Profile: Michelle Blum Atkinson, Candidate for Oregon State Representative, District 6
Rogue Valley Messenger: You won 85 percent of the vote. What was that experience like?
Michelle Blum Atkinson: I was honored to win 85 percent of the vote in the contested primary; the support of my community means a lot to me. I think the people of Medford are ready for a change and they know that I’m deeply committed to serving our community. I grew up here in Medford, graduating from South Medford High School, managed multiple technology businesses in Medford, and am raising my own children here. I share dreams and concerns of people around here, and I will work hard for everyone.
RVM: Have you ever run in a political race before? If not, what was this experience like?
MBA: I have run for office before, but most of my experience is as a businesswoman and helping nonprofits. I got my political start by kicking off the successful campaign for the Jackson County Library District. When the libraries were in danger of being shut down, again. I organized and co-founded a Political Action Committee called “Libraries for All” and was a core member of the campaign team. Additionally, I have experience running for City Council in 2016. It was a great opportunity and I met so many people who are making the Rogue Valley a better place to live, work and play. I find campaigns build community. We work with our neighbors, discuss our values and collaborate to create the type of community we want for our children.
RVM: You wear a lot of hats. What are some of the committees/ foundations you serve, and which is your favorite? Why?
MBA: I work with many organizations in southern Oregon and don’t want to pick a favorite, because they all fill such a unique and important role to the people they serve. My leadership style has evolved from my deeply held belief that we are all in this together and we are all connected. For us to truly thrive as individuals and a community, we must take care of each other.
One organization that I’m proud to be on the Board of Directors of is Kids Unlimited, which is a unique school specifically designed to address the education gap in rural populations. And it is working, the kids have a very high attendance rate and amazing success stories. We address many of the basic needs of children that sometimes are not met at home—because a hungry, tired, fearful child cannot thrive in the classroom. So, Kids Unlimited helps make sure that the students are ready to learn and then offers a rich learning environment with high expectations. They have helped rebuild a neglected area of West Medford by turning a rundown bowling alley into a community center with many extra-curricular activities, a sports gym and an outdoor turf soccer field.
RVM: What are you most excited for in this new position?
MBA: I am very much looking forward to rolling up my sleeves as a State Legislator and representing our community in a positive and collaborative way.
I want to help unify the people of southern Oregon and encourage more young people to get involved. With the combined effort and skills in this Valley, there is no end to the good we can accomplish. I am a Democrat, but I care about and work with all people no matter their politics. I love to meet new people and I am motivated by challenges.
RVM: What are some things you will advocate for?
MBA: I will advocate for the issues that affect us here in southern Oregon the most: housing, health care, mental health, education, and our environment. We need state policy that focuses on helping families that are being overburdened with the high cost of housing and health care. Our local community needs well-paying jobs with career training that keeps up with technology. I want to make sure that southern Oregonians are taken care of and feel safe so I will advocate for all people including kids, families, seniors, women, veterans, and people of all color.