Laurie Cremona Wagner, PCC Director, Position 1 – Candidate Interview
By Dan Neill, WCD Communications Team volunteer
DN: What inspired you to run for office?
LW: I am the chair of the PCC Business Advisory Committee, as well as on the Computer Information Systems (CIS) Committee. These are groups of industry leaders that meet quarterly with faculty to provide guidance when asked, or network with students. A couple of years ago in one meeting, a dean of a cybersecurity department was talking about how many cybersecurity experts are needed for companies to survive – what a shortage there was. She said she was going around to different high schools to recruit them. This is an amazing job, protecting your company or organization from outside threats, and is in demand. But most people would not generally know about this need. So there is a huge opportunity to connect jobs with people that need them. At the same time I was networking with PCC students as part of helping graduates get into the job market, and I discovered that lots of students were studying web design, which is not what companies are generally looking for as much. This to me said there is an opportunity to help align the PCC curriculum with more in-demand skills.
I also work with the Bureau of Labor on what jobs are coming up and work with universities to inspire them to connect students to jobs. In 2020 I began serving on the state Workforce and Talent Development Task Force, which advises the governor. The key I think is workforce development, building out the community college system, and partnering with the state, workforce boards, or different industry leaders to figure out how to help Oregon’s economy and help those who have been disenfranchised.
PCC is the biggest college system in Oregon so this seemed a natural way to contribute to developing a strong Oregon workforce, so I prepared by completing the Emerge Oregon program. When PCC Director Denise Frisbee indicated she was not running again in 2021, I started building relationships and preparing to run for this position.
DN: Your background in business is impressive and will serve PCC well on the board. How do your values and those of the Democratic party align?
LW: I don’t think many people talk about it – but the mindset of a democrat is a growth mindset – if people are given the right resources and the right opportunity and support, then anyone can thrive. But due to lack of resources many are born into, or obstacles they have to overcome, the community at large needs to commit to providing help so everyone gets opportunities.
DN: What is the main project or priority you will work on once in office?
LW: Yesterday the board had a public work session I attended that was a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training. At the end, I thought, what specific training or projects could the board research that would really help them deliver on the college’s mission statement? PCC has a huge houselessness problem among the students and workforce, and they were discussing housing solutions and the design and construction for PCC buildings. I’ve worked in this space my entire career. My degree is in civil engineering and I have worked in an urban design/build environment for a woman-owned contractor company. Construction is where I come from. So that’s really an area where I could help drive, making sure we build new buildings and campuses to drive equity, a sense of belonging for all the students, employees and contractors. Not only the housing but the way they are built, I want to choose contractors and design/build that promotes diversity among bidders for contracts. I hire people for the company I work for every day so understand the hiring process and how it can be made as equitable as possible, where bias is often a problem.
I also want to drive an awareness project in the Portland metro area (and Oregon) for potential students around what jobs are available and what the pathways to get there are and what the pathways are. There may have been a lot of work done already but it hasn’t gotten into the hearts and minds of the public. I have the marketing and communication background to launch a massive communication strategy.
Learn more about Laurie Cremona Wagner, Candidate for PCC Director, Position 1, at her campaign website.