State Rep. Greg Smith tours HAREC, Hermiston sites

<p>Phil Hamm, at right, explains operations at HAREC to Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, who visited the facility and grounds for the first time Thursday afternoon. The stop was the last of several tours of the Hermiston area which included a stop at the Columbia River Water Basin water meeting, a tour of the Port of Umatilla, the Hermiston Library and a meeting with the Hermiston Futures Task Force at Hermiston City Hall.</p>

A heavy thunderstorm Thursday didn't deter state Rep. Greg Smith from touring Hermiston sites.

The Heppner Republican, who will soon represent Hermiston in District 57, spent the day meeting and hearing from area residents.

Smith attended a Columbia Basin water meeting, toured the Port of Umatilla, stopped at the Hermiston Library and met with Hermiston Futures Task Force members. He then topped off the day with a with a visit to the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center, his first time at the facility, HAREC superintendent Phil Hamm said.

Smith said the tours were a chance for him to listen to the issues.

"I didn't come to talk, I came to listen," Smith said. "I'm the servant."

Led on a tour of the facilities by Hamm and HAREC advisory committee chair Bryan Wolfe, Smith  listened as Hamm explained the workings of the facilities.

Hamm said one of the challenges of the area is the potential for different pathogens to develop in crops.

"Our job here is to provide research-based information," Hamm told Smith during a tour of  a lab and greenhouse.

"I will go to the mat for you guys in Salem," Smith told Hamm and Wolfe.

"He has been doing that," Wolfe said later in the day.

Wolfe said he hates to lose representation by state Rep. Bob Jensen, but said: "We're looking forward to working with Greg for the future."

Smith, the owner of 3,000 books, was impressed by the Hermiston Library.

"Those are the kinds of investments we need to be making in communities," he said.

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