Tom Koehler, a co-founder of the Chinook Book and Pacific Ethanol, will run for the Portland Public School Board Zone 6 seat being vacated by two-term incumbent Trudy Sargent. Consuelo Saragoza, who works for Multnomah County, previously filed for the position.
Koehler brings political and private sector experience to the race. While a student at Oregon State University, he ran successfully for the Corvallis city council, he later moved on to community organizing and moved into electoral politics, running then City Commissioner Earl Blumenauer's mayoral campaign in 1992.
After Blumenauer lost and moved on to Congress, Koehler, 52, co-founded the Chinook Book, which provides coupons to a variety of local businesses. He then moved on to the alternative energy industry, co-founding Pacific Ethanol, the largest manufacturer and marketer of alternative motor fuels in the western U.S.
Koehler, a fifth-generation Oregonian who grew up in Portland, says he's hopes to emphasize three areas: teacher-led learning and ensuring each school employs an excellent principal; increasing innovation; and strengthening community partnerships, particularly with the business community.
"Our drop-out rate and achievement gap are unacceptable," Koehler says. "So is the level of resources we're being provided—but I think we can do more with the resources we do have."
Ballots for the school board races will be counted May 21.