Lane County Commissioner Pat Farr

District 4 North Eugene

When did you attend the UO? What did you study?

I attended in 1973 and 1974. I was an English major, of all crazy things. I planned on going into optometry, but there was no “pre-optometry” major.

Was there a class that inspired you in a new way while at UO?

There was one tenured professor. Waldo McNair, who was close to retiring and didn’t teach classes very frequently, but I felt blessed that he taught my Shakespeare class. He taught me to look not just at the words but at the complete composition of the statement. Shakespeare was masterful in that he did exactly that: he gave you more than just the words, he gave you a visual through the words. This professor taught us to go beyond what we’re hearing, beyond what we’re reading, beyond what was being written, to try and dig deep into the thoughts and the implications that caused the words to be stated.

What was the number one skill you believe you acquired while at UO?

Patience. I remain not very patient, but being in a large school after being in a small high school, I learned that everything did not revolve around me, and that I sometimes had to wait for things to happen. This definitely applies to the world of policy making.

What is your current occupation and what was your path to this position?

I have been a Lane County Commissioner since 2013.

Early in adulthood I left the UO to join the Oregon Army National Guard.  After basic training At Fort Leonard Wood, I took a job at Jerry’s Home Improvement Center Eugene, which at the time had just a handful of full-time employees. During my time there I served as merchandise manager, sales manager and finally general operations manager as the business grew to having more than 400 employees.

After Jerry’s, I got a call from my wife informing me that there was a position on the Bethel School Board. I said “good, you’re going to be great,” and she said “no, you are.” So, I gladly took a job as a school board member. And then, when I was on the school board, Bobby Green called me and asked if I would be interested in replacing him at the Eugene City Council, and after saying no a few times, I eventually said yes. I was appointed and then elected three times as a Eugene City Councilor. I became more involved in policy making and understood that I could really make a difference in how the community grows and how the community is formed, and most significantly, how people’s lives are affected. In 2002 a similar process occurred; I was recruited to become a state legislator, and initially I said “no,” until, after intense lobbying, I gave in and said “yes.”

 After serving one term, I left the Oregon Legislature to become the Executive Director of FOOD for Lane County, which grew to providing about 7 million pounds of food annually while I was E.D.

My experience in employment is that I’ve only worked for world-class organizations. For me, it really revolves around advocating for and securing basic services for people, and people have what they need to live.

What does the word “advocacy” mean to you?

Advocacy means being an ambassador for the organization that you represent in way that helps people to understand the strategies, tactics, and the declared goals of your organization. And it means understanding who it is that you’re talking to and how that influencer can or can’t help advance your request.

What advice would you give people advocating for the UO about being an effective advocate?

I’ll tell you what I always did as a state legislator. When advocates came in to explain what they would like my support for, the first thing I would ask was who opposed the issue and why. If somebody was able to share the opposing argument, I could gauge their willingness to tell the truth and that they truly understood the issue they about which they were advocating.

What is something you wish people knew about the advocacy process?

Advocates need to talk in terms that people understand. You can speak to a legislator all day long, but if you’re not talking in their terms, they’ll not hear what you have to say. So knowing who it is that you’re speaking with is an important part of advocacy; is your legislator from North Eugene or is your legislator from Ontario? What drives them? What motivates them? Understanding that, while your message is always the same, in order to achieve maximum effectiveness the delivery should be different.

Share an example or two of a time you felt successful advocating for something important to you.

Advocating on behalf of FOOD for Lane County was easy because I was passionate about advocating for hungry kids. For me it’s important to advocate for issues that strike the core inside of me and make me cry, or laugh, or otherwise connect to my emotions.

My work as a commissioner allows me to focus clearly on the urgency surrounding poverty and homelessness in our city, our county and our state.  I serve on Lane County’s Human Services Commission and its Poverty and Homelessness Board.  I am driven to elevate attention to and services toward ending cycles of poverty and homelessness.