Longtime Ashland resident Paula Brown is the newest member of the Oregon Transportation Commission, appointed to a four-year term last December. She discussed her new role and what she hopes to achieve.
Q: How did you describe the skills and perspective you bring to the OTC?
I have served since I was in college; first with the United States Navy, then with local communities and special districts. Upon retiring from the Navy, I realized the need to continue to serve. Having been active with Oregon transportation issues at the staff level for 15 years, it is an honor to serve on the Governor’s Transportation Commission to work for all of Oregon.
My goal would be to ensure that all positions are heard and respected prior to making decisions and to help the Governor advance the vision for Oregon’s Transportation System. I enjoy working with a team that has divergent points of view but can be open to differences of opinion and perhaps a broadened sense of change. I look forward to innovative solutions for our future that will add value to the lives of Oregonians.
Q: What previous experience is most helpful?
Over my last six years with the US Navy, I spent a great deal of time working on shrinking federal budgets and refining the quantity of support without compromising quality. We will always have competing priorities and must strive to understand each dimension of need before we make thoughtful recommendations. Some of the strengths I bring to the OTC: developing priorities among competing needs and desires; learning to explain needs in terms that policy makers and legislators understand, so that decisions can be made; and, then, developing next steps and ways forward to implement the selected plan. I look forward to the challenges we face in developing a transportation plan and funding package that meets the needs for Oregonians and those that visit our wonderful state.
As an engineer, I also have a strong background in program and project planning and execution.
Q: OTC commissioners are challenged to represent different regions of Oregon while bearing in mind the larger, interconnected transportation system. How do you balance these responsibilities?
I am excited to learn more about other parts of Oregon and what makes them special. Besides Ashland, I have family in Portland and Bend and am familiar with Interstate 5 and parts of the northern and southern Oregon coast. I love to travel and one of the best parts of my role on the OTC is to learn about the rest of Oregon and the differing needs of each region. We all do things a little differently and prioritize transportation needs a little differently. There are times when many of us that do not live in the Portland Metro area feel a little disenfranchised. I accept that one of my roles is to understand the differing needs and help to shape and translate the prioritization of program and project funding across each region. Although familiar with the needs of the Rogue Valley, I hope to be able to learn from other Area Commissions on Transportation about what challenges they face and understand their true needs. I also believe it is important to continue the vital links — highway, rail, transit and transportation innovations — we have with neighboring states.
Q: This is an unpaid, volunteer post requiring significant time and travel commitments. Give us a sense of the obligations and sacrifices you make in this role?
I can tell you for sure I did not expect to spend as much time as I already have, but…it will be worth it. For me, one is either all in or out. I am committed to learning as much as I can about the transportation needs, policies, and rules, and then to make sure we are doing the right things for all of Oregon. I am not sure I would call any of this a sacrifice as I feel an obligation to serve and right now, this is important to me and I hope I will make a difference for Oregon.
Q: Your career took you to many places but you’ve chosen to live in southern Oregon. What attracts you to the Rogue Valley?
I moved to the Rogue Valley in 1993 to get a life and I was successful in that pursuit. What keeps me here, besides my husband and our vineyard, is the sense of peace and beauty.
Every time I traveled, typically by air, and returned home to the Medford Airport, I was always so glad to be coming home. Even though it took one extra flight and a few more hours, I was very glad to be in my little piece of paradise. I appreciate the community atmosphere I have in Ashland and the Rogue Valley, where people talk to each other and are interested in making things better. I appreciate being outdoors and the fantastic options we have to play (hiking, rafting, snow sports, etc.) and become connected to the environment. I appreciate the seasons. I appreciate the calmness.
About Paula Brown
A registered civil engineer in Oregon and California as well as an environmental engineer in Oregon, Paula earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of the Pacific and a master’s degree from George Washington University.
During 1982-2016, Brown served in the United States Navy, Civil Engineer Corps. She is a combat veteran. In the Naval Reserves, Brown was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and served as Deputy of the First Naval Construction Division. Most recently, she served as Deputy Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which manages the planning, design, construction, contingency engineering, real estate, environmental and public works support for U.S. Navy shore facilities worldwide.
Brown owns and operates Dana Campbell Vineyards in Ashland with her husband.
This body establishes state transportation policy, meeting monthly to oversee ODOT activities relating to highways, public transportation, rail, transportation safety, motor carrier transportation, and drivers and motor vehicles. The governor appoints five commissioners, ensuring that different geographic regions of the state are represented. One member must live east of the Cascade Range; no more than three can belong to one political party.