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Kulongoski plans Baker visits
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
He's been elected governor of all of Oregon, and in the coming weeks, Baker County residents are going to be seeing plenty of him.
Governor-elect Ted Kulongoski has confirmed he will be in Baker City three times between Dec. 19 and Jan. 18, said Baker City Realtor Mike Nelson, a former state legislator and a current member of Kulongoski's 23-person transition team.
The centerpiece of Kulongoski's upcoming Baker City appearances will be an inaugural ball set for 6 p.m. through 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 8. The place has not yet been determined, Nelson said, but ticket availability has been.
Anybody who wants to come and can afford a moderately-priced ticket about $10 or $15 can attend what will be one of three regional inaugural events, Nelson said.
The others are planned for Medford and Bend. A more formal inaugural event is set for the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland Saturday, Jan. 11, two days before Kulongoski is to be sworn in as governor.
But don't bother calling Nelson's office for tickets, because they haven't yet been issued. When the time comes, he said, ticket information will be announced.
No public money will be spent on any of the inaugural events, according to Kulongoski spokesman Scott Ballo. Admission will be charged at each of the inaugural events.
The governor-elect's other local appearances will be before Baker County cattle producers on Dec. 19 and at the Baker County Unlimited banquet Jan. 18.
Early in his campaign, Kulongoski met with a handful of Baker County cattlemen in Nelson's real estate office. During that meeting, he promised to meet with them again after the election to discuss issues, including marketing Oregon-grown beef more effectively.
The Dec. 19 meeting is a fulfillment of that promise, Nelson said.
"During his campaign appearances in Eastern Oregon, he made a lot of promises, and now he's keeping those promises," Nelson said. "He knows beef is one of Baker County's biggest industries, and he wants to know how his administration can promote Oregon beef better. He wants producers to tell him how they feel.
"He's promised to be the governor of all of Oregon, and he's going to be out here three times in the next month or so to help prove it."
Also during that meeting, Kulongoski made public that the Wallowa Mountains wilderness area is a favorite vacation spot. He said he loves to backpack for up to a week at a time in the wilderness. Nelson said the governor-elect was also eager to do some bird-hunting in Eastern Oregon.
Plans are still being made for the Jan. 8 inaugural ball in Baker City, Nelson said. Kulongoski told him that he wanted it to include dinner and a short, informal speech. A band will offer live music.
Kulongoski told Nelson he wanted the event to be accessible to everyday residents. For most governors-elect, inaugural events are reserved for dignitaries and large campaign donors.
"This is really a sharp, low-key, accessible guy," said Nelson, who also served on the transition team for Gov. Neil Goldschmidt in late 1986 and early 1987.
Nelson said he did not know if Kulongoski planned to speak at the BCU banquet. He appeared at the 2002 banquet while on the campaign trail.
"He looked us in the eye and promised us he'd be back in 2003," Nelson said.
Nelson returned Thursday from a four-day session with Kulongoski and the rest of the transition team. Sessions began at 6:30 a.m. and continued well into the evening, he said.
Most of the time was spent meeting with the state's department heads in an attempt to come to grips with each's impending budget woes, Nelson said.
Nelson said he gave Kulongoski the names of Eastern Oregonians he believes would serve well in the coming administration, but declined to divulge the names.
But he did say he is pursuing a strategy of getting area people named to the state's various boards and commissions.
That's because those are the people who watch over state agencies when the legislature is not in session, Nelson said.
"These are very important positions which have an effect on Eastern Oregon," he said.
He said he was particularly interested in getting area residents named to the commissions that oversee the state Corrections, Transportation, and Economic Development departments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.