State Senators Janeen Sollman and Lynn Findley bridge the partisan divide the old-fashioned way: by working together.

By Ted Case

Senators Janeen Sollman and Lynn Findley have forged a bipartisan trail in the Oregon Legislature’s Senate Committee on Energy and Environment.

Oregon State Senators Janeen Sollman and Lynn Findley are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, represent vastly different constituencies and serve on a committee known for controversial legislation. Yet Sollman, the Democratic chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment; and Findley, the Republican vice chair; refuse to let any of that get in the way of good, old-fashioned bipartisan collaboration.

“We make good decisions together,” Sollman said. “I trust Lynn.”

The feeling is mutual.

“I think the world of Janeen,” Findley said. “She is a senator who cares about Oregon.”

Their partnership works despite divergent backgrounds and districts with little in common. Their hometowns are 400 miles apart, yet the gulf between rural Oregon and Portland often seems far more distant.

Sollman represents Senate District 15—a reliably Democratic area in western Washington County that includes the cities of Forest Grove and Hillsboro. Intel is a major player in the area. When not legislating, Sollman works for a software and technology company, one of many in Oregon’s so-called Silicon Forest.

Sollman’s path to the state capitol started with civic engagement and a focus on education. A former school mascot for the Vikings of Forest Grove High School, Sollman served on the Hillsboro school board before being elected to the Oregon House in 2016 and the state Senate in 2022.

Few things get her more excited than reducing waste—Sollman is proud to be a “Metro Master Recycler,” a title she received after an intensive course on sustainability.

Mike Teegarden, a constituent and editorial director for Pioneer Utility Resources, has watched Sollman’s meteoric rise from school auditorium to the state capitol.

“Janeen has such passion for community and making positive change,” he said.

They may represent opposing political parties, but State Senators Janeen Sollman, left, and Lynn Findley collaborate on topics important to Oregonians. Photo by Lynn Hallett

Findley represents Senate District 30, which encompasses 43% of the land mass in Oregon, all on the east side of the Cascade Range. The forests there are not silicon, but more of the ponderosa pine variety. The district includes territory of eight different electric co-ops, dotted with small towns whose livelihoods depend on agriculture, natural resources and tourism.

Findley was elected to the Legislature in 2018 after a long career with the Bureau of Land Management and as Vale city manager.

He was appointed—and then elected—to the state Senate in 2020. The politics of his district are conservative, and several of the counties have aligned with the Greater Idaho Movement to secede from Oregon to Idaho. As a member of the minority party, Findley certainly understands their frustration.

“But I’m not ready to give up on Oregon,” he said.

Findley’s work in the Legislature has impressed Les Penning, CEO of Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative.

“Sen. Findley has been a great ally of electric co-ops,” Penning said. “He has a strong track record of engaging with us, our member-owners, and the communities he represents and that we serve.”

Despite their differences, Sollman and Findley have worked hard to make the committee a model for bipartisanship. They served together in the Oregon House, joining forces to pass an air quality bill for wood stoves.

Sollman has made Findley an integral part of planning the committee agenda, and together they navigate a series of often controversial environment and energy-related bills.

Sollman, who is also the state lead for the National Caucus of Environmental Leaders, chairs the committee with upbeat efficiency, managing the citizen testimony that has exploded with the option of commenting virtually. She also prioritizes the Youth Voices segment of the meetings, when Oregon students provide testimony on issues of interest.

“I want to hear from all corners of the state,” Sollman said.

This included one student who called for a ban on meat. Findley, whose district includes scores of cattle ranches, listened intently while wearing a wry smile.

Findley is not shy about questioning committee witnesses, using the training he and Sollman acquired while participating in the Legislative Energy Horizon Institute, a rigorous advanced training program for legislators. He often points out that policy that works for Portland may not work in his rural district. His ultimate objective this session is commonsense legislating on issues, from electric vehicles to mandating renewable diesel.

As the session drags on and partisan tempers flare, both senators know their partnership will be put to the test. Neither legislator seems daunted by the challenge.

“We will not always be on the same side of the issue, but we’ll continue to have good conversations,” Sollman said.

Findley agrees, while conceding sharp policy debates loom.

“The fights are coming,” he said. “But when we’re done yelling, we’ll end up smiling.”