Greg Walden: A Friend Leaves the House

Greg Walden, former U.S. Representative

Greg Walden has, ahead of him, lots of skiing, camping, and kayaking. And behind: 30 years of public service as a leading lawmaker who worked across the aisle.

Walden, BS ’81 (journalism), the longtime US representative for Oregon’s 2nd congressional district, retired in December as the top Republican on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Among his achievements, he led passage of the 2018 opioid law—encompassing more than 70 bills on treatment, prevention, and enforcement—and the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, which protects nearly a half-million acres in Eastern Oregon from incompatible land use and development. The longtime ally of the University of Oregon supported efforts ranging from neuroimaging and the humanities to earthquake early-warning systems. 

Throughout his career, Walden strove for bipartisan legislation because the most important bills, he says, required the broadest support.

His determination to right wrongs as a lawmaker is owed in part to an upbringing in journalism—his father, Paul, was a radio broadcaster. At the UO, Walden developed a commitment to the impartial pursuit of facts under journalism professors Jack Hart and Karl Nestvold.

“Mr. Nestvold taught us you need to be thorough but keep your opinion out of it. You don’t have to be nasty to get a story,” Walden says. “Keep it to the facts.”

The advice served Walden well as a state and federal lawmaker who built relationships and kept his personal views to himself. As he and his wife, Mylene Walden, BS ’81 (marketing), look ahead, Walden feels only satisfaction for what he accomplished.

“I’m not one of those cranky, grumpy members leaving public office,” Walden says. “I really enjoyed it. Politics really is a people business—it’s about making friends and building relationships. That’s how you get things done.” 

—By Matt Cooper, Oregon Quarterly

Photo courtesy of Greg Walden