Eleven Salemites have been recommended for state boards and commissions overseeing alcohol and drug policy, education, social work and more, whose decisions will impact the lives of thousands of Oregonians.
Governor Tina Kotek announced the nominations on Aug. 31, which the legislature will consider between Sept. 27 and 29.
Here are the Salemites nominated for terms, with biographical information provided by the candidates to Gov. Kotek’s office.
Cynthia Richardson – appointment to the State Board of Education
Richardson was elected to a seat on the Salem-Keizer School Board in May, after retiring as the district’s director of equity, access and advancement. She was previously principal of North Salem and McKay High Schools. In her district role, Richardson advocated for more training on implicit bias and students’ cultural backgrounds to address higher rates of discipline and lower graduation rates for many students of color.
“Cynthia Richardson is the descendant of a family of educators and has served as an educator in Texas, Nebraska, and Oregon for the past 44 years. For the past six years, she has focused on equity which she is very passionate about. She believes that all students can learn and should have access to quality education,” her biography to the governor’s office said.
Joaquín Lara Midkiff – appointment to Salem Area Mass Transit District
Lara Midkiff is a 2023 graduate from Yale University, where he studied Latin American history and evolutionary biology. From, 2021 to 2023, he “was a fellow with the Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies where he studied Indigenous diaspora and migration, transborder lives and U.S.-Latin American relations.”
“Joaquín (Nahua Chilapantec) is a writer, scholar and advocate whose work in print and beyond is grounded in community and remains dedicated to farmworker and disability justice,” Lara Midkiff’s bio said.
Kotek appointed him to the Oregon Disabilities Commission in 2023, and has been on the city of Salem’s human rights commission since 2022. He also sits on the equity board for the Salem- Keizer School District.
“His previous advocacy work includes two years in the farmworker justice movement on the leadership council at Causa of Oregon as an organizer on state-wide campaigns, protecting Oregon’s sanctuary status and passing the Equal Access to the Roads Act in 2019,” his bio said.
Eric Davis – appointment to the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission
“For over 20 years, I have worked to make a difference in the health and welfare of Oregonians. I helped develop the first Tobacco-Free workplace for the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor,” Davis said.
Davis opened four state-certified mental health and chemical dependency clinics in 2006. The next year, he opened the first suboxone clinic in Marion County. Suboxone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction.
He also worked to assist the Polk County Drug Court secure federal funds for treatment services. In 2008, the Addiction Certification Board of Oregon asked Davis to compile the best research in treating African-Americans with substance abuse disorders.
Davis has worked as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Oregon.
Kathryn Hupy – reappointment to the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission
Hupy is originally from the Boston area, and graduated from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts in 2007 with a degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. In 2010, Hupy graduated from Albany Law School in New York with a concentration in criminal law.
“I am a member of the bar in New York, Massachusetts, and Oregon, and practiced in Oregon for approximately 11 years before joining the Polk County Circuit Court,” Hupy said, whose role is program manager in the specialty courts.
Nancy Ayala Johnson – appointment to the Commission on Hispanic Affairs
“As a communication professional; I work closely with the Spanish-speaking community. I moved from Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley in 2019 and I started working with Alianza Poder, Instituto de Cultura Oregoniana, Radio Poder, and Oregon Pero en Espanol,” Ayala Johnson wrote.
Marsha Wentzell – reappointment to the Home Care Commission
Wentzell has been a member of the Oregon Health Authority’s Ombuds Advisory Council, and a committee member on the Medicaid Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthopedics and Supplies Committee.
She has also been a committee member on the State’s Independent Living Council, and was a commissioner on the Oregon Home Care Commission from 2015 to 2018. Wentzell served as a Provincial Home Care Committee Member in Nova Scotia from 1999 to 2004.
She listed her community participation at Broadway Life Center, Salem Alliance, Salem, Oregon Literacy Support Provider and Home Delivery Coordinator at the Feed Salem Program.
Paul Johnson – reappointment to the Home Care Commission
When he was 10 years old, Johnson’s family moved to Glen Ellen, California. His father was a pastor and his mother was a registered nurse at the Sonoma Developmental Center for people with cognitive disabilities.
“My brother, Andrew, experienced significant physical and cognitive disabilities and was a resident in that facility until his death in 1982,” Johnson said.
He attended Simpson College, then graduate school at Dallas Seminary in Texas where he received a masters in theology and another in Cross-Cultural Engagement.
Johnson and his wife worked for Camino Global, a non-governmental organization, and later moved to central Mexico, where their three children were born. He is fluent in Spanish.
“Our son, Andrew, was born with developmental disabilities requiring our family to return to the U.S. for his care in July of 2004. We began working at the headquarters of Camino Global in Dallas, TX and we found great medical professionals to help our son Andrew. In 2008, I was hired as a fulltime faculty member in the Intercultural Studies Department of Corban University in Salem, OR. I enjoyed my ten years at Corban where I taught students to develop cultural intelligence and sensitivity as they serve people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” he said.
After several Corban faculty positions were laid off, including Johnson’s, he sought another teaching position. They wanted to stay in Salem, where their son had a support network.
“As I looked for opportunities to use my education, experiences, and interests in serving diverse groups of people, I applied for and was hired in December 2018 by the Medicaid Services and [Supports] Unit of the Aging and People with Disabilities Department of ODHS. Iserve in that unit as the Medicaid In-Home Services Operations and Policy Analyst. I have served on the Oregon Home Care Commission since June of 2019,” he said.
Jes Dimas – appointment to State Board of Licensed Social Workers
Dimas is a licensed clinical and school social worker providing outpatient mental health services in Salem at Community Roots Counseling.
“His experience includes working as a therapist in community and school-based mental health for several years, as well as working as an administrator for a large behavioral health program. Jes is enthusiastic about promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the community, and aspires to one day work in public policy at the state level,” his biography said.
“He is passionate about representing and working with communities of color, particularly, individuals who identify as members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, providing counseling for individuals on the gender spectrum, as well as support for gender-affirming surgical and nonsurgical interventions,” his bio said.
Dimas is trained in Theraplay which helps children and caregivers connect, and the Gottman Method for couples counseling.
“Jes uses he/theypronouns.Identities include being two-spirit, Indigenous American, Mexican, and European, and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.Jes fosters a nonjudgmental practice and supports all types of relationships and family structures,” his bio said.
Daniel Santos – reappointment to Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees
“I am a SOU 1975 alum. Worked in Migrant Ed, became a lawyer and have served 4 governors, and retired as an associate law dean,” he said.
Joy Dougherty – appointment to Workers’ Compensation Board
Dougherty has lived in Oregon for 22 years, and is the presiding administrative law judge for the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board.
“Just after I moved to Oregon, September 11th happened. In the aftermath, the economy was in such a state that there were not many jobs available. I felt very fortunate to get a job with a workers’ compensation defense firm. Having been a probation officer before law school and having completed all of my practicums in criminal law, it did not occur to me at that time that I would spend my entire working career in this field. Workers’ Compensation is a legally complex and important area of the law, I have appreciated working in this area and with the community that surrounds it,” she wrote.
Judith Richards – appointment to Statewide Independent Living Council
“I have spent twenty-five years as a Personnel Director and Training Director for a firm in Carlsbad California. In this position I worked with a wide sector of people and community employers training and placing people in new positions. I enjoy serving, working and Advocating for the DD/IDD Community and finding new ways to educate people/legislators and families on new creative ideas to solve problems,” she wrote.
Richards has served on the Statewide Aging and Disability Resource Connection Advisory Council, and also worked in Oregon for Garten Services during the early creation of the Job Development and training program for People Disabilities.
She’s also a longtime member of the NorthWest Senior and Disability Advisory Council and was previously Chair of Disability Council. Richards is the Current Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee and most recently worked on SB1534, HB2661 Medicaid Waiver 115 and transition plan SB1534.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.