Over the last year, rural organizers have built community, defended democracy, and advanced human dignity across the state, from starting a new Gay-Straight Alliance at Lakeview High School to building a low-barrier shelter and resource center in Sweet Home, and passing powerful ballot measures that took slavery out of the Oregon Constitution and will hold legislators accountable to showing up to work. We have a lot to celebrate and reflect on from the past year and we face massive challenges to democracy that we need to strategize about and organize together to win!
It is in this spirit that we would like to introduce this year’s ROP Board slate, an incredible crew of local human dignity group organizers from around the state who lead with courage, compassion, and thoughtfulness. On Saturday, May 20th in Albany, ROP member groups will elect a slate of Board members to shape the direction of ROP’s work, and convene at this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session to set ROP’s direction for the year to come.
Register your group for the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session by April 22nd for an early bird discount.Early registrations help us make sure we have plenty of food, chairs, community housing, interpreters, and childcare for everyone to fully participate!
Could your group use scholarships, community housing, a ride in a carpool, or gas money to help get you to the Caucus this year? Let us know! We are excited to support rural leaders to travel to and participate in the Caucus! You can find more information about the Caucus including our COVID safety precautions, physical accessibility details, and more on our website. Email firstname.lastname@example.org about how we can support you and your group to fully participate in the Caucus!
2023 ROP Board Slate
In odd-number years, odd-number seats are up for a vote. The bolded seats below will be elected this year!
Region 1: Lisa Gonzales – Benton County
Region 2: Katie Cook – Gilliam County
Region 3: Martha Verduzco – Hood River County
Region 4: Position to be filled
Region 5: Joe Lewis – Columbia County
Region 6: Stephanie Hunter – Deschutes County
Region 7: Briana Spencer – Umatilla County
About the ROP Board Members
Lisa Gonzales – Benton County
Lisa is a long-time organizer and activist committed to practicing liberation in many forms through community celebrations, cultural organizing, and ongoing actions. She is a part of multiple groups in Corvallis, including the Mid-Valley Solidarity Coalition and the Mid-Valley branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Lisa brings a deep grounding and thoughtfulness to her work and is a skilled facilitator, supporting groups through discomfort and conflict to find new ways of working and being together. A brilliant and strategic organizer, Lisa brings a depth of experience to ROP and serves as Vice-Chair of the board.
Martha Verduzco Ortega – Hood River
Martha joined the ROP Board in 2017 and serves as Chair. She is one of the founders and leaders of Hood River Latino Network. and was a key leader in the campaigns to support hunger strikers at the NORCOR regional jail in the Gorge. After years of organizing to end NORCOR’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) they were successful in 2021! In addition to forming and organizing in these groups, Martha has also organized community cultural celebrations that have brought together hundreds of people, rallies in support of Dreamers, and mobilized support for pro-immigrant legislation in Oregon. Martha’s heart, commitment, and extraordinary instincts make her an incredible Board Chair!
Joe Lewis – Columbia County
Joe’s politicization happened suddenly when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State on May 4, 1970. Joe was shot that day. He returns each year to the Kent State commemoration and gives talks about the powerful work he and his peers did coming out of that fateful day. Serving 33 years at the City of Scappoose public works department, 20 years as a union president and chief negotiator, and 16 years on the Scappoose School Board including several stints as Board Chairperson, and helping raise seven children and several grandchildren, Joe has always been committed to engaging his community in justice and opportunity. Joe is one of the many members of Columbia County Coalition for Human Dignity (CCCHD) who was touched, shaped, and inspired by ROP Founder Marcy Westerling and helps carry on a vision of human dignity organizing through CCCHD and as a regular volunteer. Sometimes you might even catch him in the car with an ROP staff person, joining road trips, and meeting his peers and counterparts in other counties around the state. Joe serves as Treasurer of ROP’s Board of Directors.
Briana Spencer – Umatilla County
Briana is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and is Afro-Puerto Rican. Her Indigenous name is Šápliš Hétsin (Shup-lish Hat-seen) which means “like a whirlwind.” She has been involved in activism since she was a child standing on the front lines on the streets or in board rooms with her family. She stepped into a more prominent leadership role as one of the lead organizers of Pendleton’s Black Lives Matter march. She has continued to support the movement and her community as the Founder of the Pendleton Community Action Coalition, a Steering Committee Member for Luchadores por Cambio, and a Board Member for the Women’s Foundation of Oregon. Briana draws on her experiences of being a person of color, a woman/female presenting, living in poverty, being homeless and in foster care to be a strong advocate. She strives to show people with similar lived experiences that they too, can take up space and have a voice at the table.
Katie Cook – Gilliam County and Hood River County
Katie splits her time in Hood River and Gilliam Counties where she lives with her husband Tom, a farmer and rancher. Katie is the Children and Youth Coordinator for the Riverside Community Church UCC in Hood River, which has a long-standing commitment to social justice! The United Church of Christ’s commitment to social justice has played an instrumental role in Katie’s life. After the 2016 election, she felt compelled to start Rural Voices, a private Facebook group, so that people in isolated counties of Eastern Oregon could have a safe place to ask questions, take action, and discuss issues. Katie has spearheaded organizing in the Gorge to end their regional public jail’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and after years of organizing, they were successful in 2021!
Stephanie Hunter – Deschutes County
Stephanie grew up in the cornfields of Central Illinois before moving to Oregon and has lived in Redmond since 2015. She is a behavior specialist for children and adults that experience disability and is an advocate for reimagining the systems and institutions that are supposed to support youth and families to thrive. Her organizing experience started while navigating special education services for her own child and learning about the school-to-prison pipeline and the Dignity in Schools Coalition. In 2020, inspired by an ROP strategy session, she co-founded Redmond Collective Action, which is focused on human dignity, mutual aid, and increasing civic engagement in Redmond and Deschutes County.