By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

The Bend Park & Recreation District will hire an experienced lobbyist to monitor issues of concern and advocate on behalf of the district’s interests when lawmakers meet next year in Salem.

Tuesday, the district board agreed to hire Erik Kancler on a six-month, $9,000 contract.

Kancler also serves as a lobbyist for the city of Bend and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, and previously worked as executive director for Central Oregon Landwatch.

District executive director Don Horton said Kancler’s experience as an advocate on behalf of Central Oregon interests makes him a good fit for the district. He said Kancler would serve primarily as the district’s “eyes and ears” in Salem, and that the contract could be modified if an issue were to emerge that would require considerably more of Kancler’s time.

Earlier this year, district officials expressed interest in having somebody to keep an eye on developments in Salem when a bill was introduced threatening to upend a proposed footbridge in the Deschutes River Canyon upstream of Bend.

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, ultimately failed to become law.

Horton said a number of issues of concern to the district are likely on the horizon for the Legislature.

A transportation bill approved last summer will increase state funding going to trails, Horton said, and the district will want to track Oregon State Parks and the Oregon Department of Transportation as those agencies decide how those funds will be distributed around the state.

The district will also need to stay abreast of possible reforms to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS. Horton said because the park district depends more on part-time employees than most local governments, potential changes could affect the district differently.

In the past, the job of advocating for the district in Salem has traditionally fallen to the executive director, and Horton said he intends to travel to Salem when needed.

Board members elected to go with a six-month contract rather than the yearlong contract originally proposed by Horton, in light of next year’s short legislative session. Legislators meet for no more than 35 days during even-numbered years, although the work of state agencies and state commissions is unaffected by the short session.

The 2018 legislative session starts Feb. 5.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,