Recently, I had the awesome privilege to visit our nation’s capital.
Every year, the Oregon Association of Nurseries sends representatives to Washington, D.C. with a specific mission: to represent the growers of Oregon and ensure our concerns and needs are being heard. I was fortunate enough to join President-Elect Amanda Staehely (Columbia Nursery), OAN Government Relations Committee Chairman Mark Bigej (Al’s Garden & Home) and OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone for the trip. Over the course of four days, we met with all of Oregon’s congressional representatives.
For Jeff Stone, this was not his first visit to D.C. He has been coming to the district for over 25 years and spent many days working with then-U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, where his political acumen began to take shape. His knowledge of our nation’s history and his passion for our country was evident when he became emotional as his eyes fell on the Constitution of the United States in the National Archives. After all of these years, he is still inspired by the principles that formed this great country we are blessed to live in.
It was incredible to see him in action as we began to meet with representatives from Oregon. He knew everyone by name, and likewise, they knew him. It was clear that the relationships he has built over decades of civil service meant something to those he called upon and to those for whose causes he champions.
His influence with the individuals who sit in rooms where ideas and passions can shape policies and law cannot be understated. Like the monuments in D.C., Jeff Stone is a living monument of the amazing things that happen when good people take action and do extraordinary things. We are so very fortunate to have such an incredible advocate for the OAN. Now if only we could get him to eat vegetables, he’d be perfect. Not even $201 was enough incentive to get him to eat even half a brussels sprout.
Amanda Staehely, along with her husband Wayne, founded Columbia Nursery in 2005. She brings a unique perspective to the needs of the nursery industry. She is passionate, politically savvy and can articulate clearly what is needed. She is a force that gets things done.
Likewise, it has been awesome to get to know Mark Bigej a little better. He is our OAN Government Relations Committee chair as well as the chief operating officer of Al’s Garden & Home. Not only does he understand the needs of nursery growers, but also the complexities that accompany retail operations. He is very sharp and cognizant of our challenges and clear when communicating needed solutions.
These leaders serve tirelessly and unselfishly on our behalf. The time spent with them in D.C. really helped paint a clearer picture in my mind of the extent the OAN will go to maintain momentum as we continuously push forward.
In his famous Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln, asked those in attendance to “resolve that these [Civil War] dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
My recent experience in D.C. has been humbling and motivating all at once. I was grateful to see our democracy truly in action. Our elected officials truly listened to the concerns, thoughts and ideas of those who they are tasked to represent. The government of the people, elected by the people, listening to those advocating for the people.
With the OAN representing you in Washington, you are in good hands.
Todd Nelson, OAN President (2022-2023)
President’s Message from the April 2023 issue of Digger magazine | Download PDF