Mitch Greenlick:  You Will Be Remembered

By Clayton Callahan, WashCo Dems Communications TeamPicture of Mitch Greenlick

I am sad to report this past May, we lost a champion. Oregon State Representative Mitch Greenlick passed away while serving in office at age 85 of natural causes. And although he began his legislative mission in 2002, his activism went back much farther.

In the late 1960s, Mitch was a member of an activist group called Volunteers In Vanguard Action. And when he heard of the death of a migrant child from a preventable illness, Mitch rose to the challenge. By 1975 the VVIA had succeeded in converting a four car garage into a health care center in the girl’s honor. Today the Virginia Garcia Clinic has five offices and has served over 52,000 low income patients and counting. Fifty years later, Serena Cruz, executive director of Virginia Garcia said of him, “Mitch was a huge voice for vulnerable groups and both he and his wife Harriet have been amazing for Virginia Garcia.”

A health care professional by trade, Mitch obtained a masters degree in pharmacology administration at Wayne State University in Detroit and a Ph.D. in medical care administration from the University of Michigan. He then went to work for Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, where he served as the Director for 30 years. Mitch was elected to the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine in 1971. But somehow, for Mitch, that wasn’t enough.

Not satisfied to merely work in the private sector, he served as Chair of the Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine at OHSU for 10 years. He also volunteered his time with WashCo Dems, and worked hard to organize our party at a time when Washington County was a much more conservative place than it is today. Katie Riley, who met him in ‘92, described Mitch as, “A visionary, forward thinking person who believed in treating people like human beings.”

And all his life, Mitch Greenlick kept pushing for healthcare as a right for all. After being elected as a State Representative in 2002 he spearheaded the Oregon HOPE initiative which aimed to put a constitutional amendment onto the November 2006 ballot declaring health care as a right. Although 116,000 signatures backed the initiative, it regrettably did not have enough to be on the ballot. However, Mitch being Mitch, was undeterred and simply kept on fighting. At the time of his death, he was working to secure healthcare as a right in the Oregon Legislature. And according to his friend State Senator Chuck Riley, the measure would likely have passed if not for the Republican walk out.

Throughout all his struggles, Mitch was strengthened by the companionship of his wife, Harriet, with whom he had three children. And although his accolades in healthcare and politics are a firm testament to his character, most who knew Mitch described him in different terms. A word that came up more and more as I talked to those who knew him was “mentor.” He had high standards and was wont to challenge those he took under his wing, but always with an eye to bringing out the best in people.

And with that, the most fitting tribute we can offer to this Washington County Democrat is to endeavor to be the best people we can be. When we see a need, such as when Mitch saw the need for migrant medical help, we must act. And when a younger person asks for guidance, we should willingly give them our best. And always, like Mitch Greenlick, we must strive to leave this world a better place for our having been in it.

So long, Mitch. You will be remembered.