Contributed photo by the office of Rep. Greg Walden
Of all the members of Congress that Lorissa Bounds has worked for, she says Rep. Greg Walden is the busiest.
“I can attest to one thing: Greg Walden works,” Bounds said by way of apology for running a little behind schedule for a phone interview from Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Bounds, a Hermiston High School graduate, became Walden’s chief of staff in December. The congressman’s assignments — particularly chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce — keep his schedule full, and it is Bounds’ job to manage that schedule.
She said Walden’s office tends to employ around 14 people spread between Washington, D.C., and offices in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, which represents roughly 750,000 people. Responding to constituent concerns alone can keep those staffers in the office until 10 p.m. some nights; Bounds said Walden’s office has received 71,000 constituent calls, letters and emails since the beginning of the year.
“We’ve replied to 69,000 so far,” she said. “That’s a lot of work.”
Many members of Congress have faced a groundswell of angry constituent feedback in recent months. As an author and key promoter of the Republican attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Walden has seen his share of that lately. A recent town hall meeting in his hometown of Hood River drew a vocal, disgruntled crowd of nearly 800 people.
Bounds came back to Oregon for Walden’s most recent string of town halls, and said she learned a lot from watching the way he responded to the crowds. She said his attitude was that he would rather people be fired up at town hall meetings than sitting on the couch at home, uninvolved in their government.
“The grace with which he handled those was amazing,” she said.
Not all constituent interactions come in the from of angry emails and boos from town hall attendees. Bounds said Walden’s staff often helps members of the public with small things, like scheduling a capital tour for a family visiting from Oregon or helping a veteran break through red tape to get care.
Navigating the sometimes-contentious world of politics seems to be in Bounds’ blood. Her brother Tucker Bounds was Sen. John McCain’s communications director during his 2008 presidential run and her brother Ryan Bounds is an assistant U.S. attorney. They also talk politics with their sister Hillary and parents Roger and Karen Bounds around the dinner table when everyone is home for the holidays.
“One of my fondest memories — although at the time I would have denied it — was that my parents didn’t want us to sit around bored over the summer and so they would make us read the newspaper front to back, and dad would quiz us,” she said.
Bounds said she loved growing up in small-town Hermiston, but got bit by the “political bug” when she went to Scotland as a foreign exchange student and got to meet Margaret Thatcher during Thatcher’s third term as prime minister.
Bounds headed to Washington, D.C., for a college internship with in Sen. Mark Hatfield’s office, planning to leave D.C. for a business career after graduation, but enjoyed the work so much she has worked in various legislative offices ever since. She said she is excited to be working for an Oregon lawmaker again so that she can spend part of her time back in Oregon when the legislature is not in session.
“Now the stars have aligned, and I get to come home,” she said.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.