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Veteran Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., reflects on over 20-year legislative career

12-minute wide-ranging interview a Web-exclusive

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- After more than two decades serving Oregon's sprawling Second District in Congress, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., shared his thoughts with NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday as he prepares to step down.

"It's just amazing how quickly it's passed though -- boom 22 years -- boom gone," Walden said during a wide-ranging talk with NewsChannel 21's Blake Allen.

Early in that career came the events that shook the nation, and world -- the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America.

"I was literally on the Capital grounds when the plane hit the Pentagon, and so being here through 9/11 -- and remember not longer after the anthrax attacks," he said.

And now, all these years later, a pandemic gripping the world.

"We spent years looking at every angle of a hazardous attack or a biological, chemical or nuclear or a pandemic, and thought we had it right," Walden recalled. "And all the experts, we listened to them. It's important work -- and then it turns out we actually needed a strategic national stockpile that was the Costco for everything you ever wanted."

After a long career, first as a state lawmaker in Salem and then on Capitol Hill, you might wonder what Walden believes was his most significant achievement.

"I think the work we did on the Healthy Forest Restoration act really has made a difference," he said. "Clearly it's not the be-all end-all -- there's still a lot work to be done there. But it did empower local citizens to come together in these community wildfire planning groups."

With a district as large as the Second District in Oregon, the longtime congressman attributes his success to hours on the road, listening to residents' concerns.

But Walden said one thing he won't miss: campaigning every two years to keep the job.

"You know, I enjoyed it for the most part," he said. "But it's sort of like a third job you have. I always looked at this as, you have a job that's in Washington, and that's the committee work and meeting with people that come back here."

"Then you have the job out in the district, where you're going around going to meetings and listening in town halls and things like that," he said. "And then every other year, you've got this whole other job of the campaign, and you get all the incoming there -- you know, what's the latest attack ad or direct mail piece or whatever. And it's important, but it's also a real distraction when you're trying to do your other jobs."

As for what's next, well -- first off, it's going to take place be on the slopes, much of it right here in Central Oregon.

"So my wife and I both have Icon ski passes," he said. "We intend to use up the slots that are available for Mt. Bachelor , and then spend the rest of January, traipse around the rest, getting in 22 years of missed skiing opportunities."

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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