House majority leader aims for tough but fair
By Lauren Dake, The Bend Bulletin. Published: March 25, 2013
House Republican Leader Mike McLane described his counterpart across the aisle as a “tough Irish woman from Boston."
In a column for a Eugene newspaper, former lawmaker Tony Corcoran called the House majority leader a “plucky Irish broad."
Meet Val Hoyle. She’s 49 years old and “getting better every day." A Democrat who now calls Eugene her home, Hoyle was chosen in November to lead her caucus, which enjoys a 34-26 majority in the House. First appointed to fill a vacancy in the House in 2009, Hoyle said she never set out to be a lawmaker. But look at her past, her people and her upbringing, and it’s not surprising she ended up being one.
Hoyle grew up in New Hampshire, where politics were part of the culture. There, she said, “People feel like it’s their duty to make the right choice about the president."
Her father was a firefighter, president of his union, a pro-life Democrat. Her mother was a Republican and a fiscal conservative who worked to legalize abortion.
“Growing up in my family, there were diverse political opinions," she said. “And you were allowed to have an opinion — but you had to defend it."
At age 8, she worked on her first political campaign. At 11, she helped out on a presidential campaign.
She went to all-girls schools and was the first person in her family to attend college. Later, she got into bike sales. After crashing on her bike, she became particularly gifted in the helmet department.
“I had stitches. I had a broken nose. I sold a lot of helmets and I did a good job," she said. “I spent the next 25 years working sales in the bike industry. It’s like politics. I was selling something I believed in."
When Hoyle and her husband were looking to relocate and for a place to raise their family, she fielded job offers from a couple of states. She landed in Oregon, in part because of the reputation of the schools.
“It was the lowest paying job (offer), but the reputation of the school district was great," she said.
Just a couple of years later, Oregon received national attention for slashing school days because of deep budget cuts.
“I think of how many people didn’t come here" because of the “disinvestment" in education, she said. Then her daughter started struggling in school. Hoyle became more active with her local school district and eventually got involved with Stand for Children, an education-related advocacy group.
“If we invest in kids, if we invest in schools, it will attract businesses," she said.
It was her entrance into Oregon politics. She got involved with the Democratic Party of Lane County and started working for Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene. Eventually, she was tapped to fill a 2009 vacancy in the House.
Unlike in the previous session, when she had one goal — funding for a new mental health hospital in Junction City — this session she’ll lead her caucus as it battles over what to do with the state’s public pension system and how to reduce prison costs.
The partisan differences surrounding the state’s pension system have already been cast as one of the grand debates of the 2013 legislative session. Both parties want to pump more money into the K-12 system. Democrats are proposing to find money from a combination of cuts to Public Employees Retirement System, prison sentencing reforms and cutting $275 million in tax expenditures. Republicans are pushing for more than $1 billion in cuts to PERS.
McLane said there have already been tense behind-closed-doors conversations between the party leaders. But, he said, Hoyle is “always very straightforward."
Even within her caucus, the Democratic leader said, the PERS conversations will likely be tough. “Not everyone is going to agree, but I know we need to do something ... that is fair, will withstand a legal challenge and get us money now and stabilize the short-term problem for the long term," she said. “I came to this job knowing you have to make hard choices."
One of her strongest skills, she said, is getting the right people in the room and getting them all headed in the same direction.
“People appreciate working with her because she’s very approachable. You always know where she’s coming from," House Speaker Tina Kotek said in a statement.
That seems, in part, to be one of her main political philosophies: fight hard, but fight fair.
“You can fight hard on the issues that matter, but don’t do anything to prevent you from sitting down at the table, and looking across the next day at them," Hoyle said.
Democrat Leader making mark - March 25, 2013
Oregon’s new speaker a national first - November 16, 2012
Junction City Town Hall on Elder Abuse - March 9, 2012
In the News
Val Hoyle's Opponent and the Minimum Wage - Again, Blue Oregon - November 4, 2012
Junction City school board member supports Representative Hoyle, The Register Guard - November 1, 2012
Junction City hospital fuels antagonism in state House race, The Register Guard - October 25, 2012
Junction City hospital isn't built yet but there's an argument over who gets credit, Oregon Live - October 24, 2012
Kitzhaber, DeFazio, Junction City leaders affirm Hoyle’s role in hospital project, Press Release - October 24, 2012
Rematch in race for House, Register Gaurd - October 20, 2012
'Violence Against Women Act' Supporters Bring Awareness, KEZI News - July 6, 2012
Supreme Court Ruling Met With Relief in Oregon, The Lund Report - June 28, 2012