Tax opponent keeps the faith of fiscal conservatism

Russ Walker of Keizer is the director of the Northwest chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy. Keizer’s rebellion against Salem’s property taxes was a selling point for Walker and his family.

KEIZER — Russ Walker makes his living preaching self-reliance, less government and low taxes. Some would say that makes him a model Keizer resident.

Walker is the director of the Northwest chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, the organization that spearheaded last week’s defeat of the state’s income tax Measure 30.

He and his family moved to Keizer eight years ago when he took a job as political director for Oregon Right to Life, which is based in Salem.

They had their choice to live anywhere in Salem; they chose Keizer instead.

“We liked the general attitude of the community, how friendly people are, and, of course, what the community stands for,” Walker said.

Keizer, a city that formed as a result of residents’ rebellion against Salem’s property taxes, is an example of people choosing fiscal responsibility over government waste. It’s an example more cities should take, Walker said.

“If the city had a reputation for high taxes, I don’t think my wife and I would have settled here. I believe in a competitive marketplace. I would have found a market that’s friendlier to me,” he said.

But as much as Walker embraces what Keizer stands for, he is less involved with the inner workings of its leadership. He has attended a few city meetings and other events, but he is not the face of fiscal conservatism to his neighbors.

“My wife and I try to keep my career world separate from my private life,” he said.

“I have a lot of friends who know what I do. They know I work in politics, but they’re not really sure what that means. We’ve always kind of tried to keep that separate.”

Two of his children attend Clearlake Elementary School. The youngest is not yet in school.

Walker is involved in a variety of activities in Keizer, including coaching the junior wrestling club at McNary High School and volunteering with Keizer Little League and the Boys and Girls Club football team. He also is a scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 67.

His friends describe him as a passionate person who loves his family and his job and takes taxpayer issues to heart.

“It’s his passion and it’s important to him. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the talk as well,” said Chris Anderson, a friend and former neighbor.

Insurance agent Sam Goesch, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Lockhaven Drive NE, where Walker and his family attend, said his friend’s opinions are not unique but gather more attention because he’s good at rallying people to a cause.

Walker got his first taste of political campaigning in 1984 as a high school student in Central Point in southern Oregon.

The former Eagle Scout delivered campaign signs for Medford Republican Bob Smith’s first re-election campaign for Congress and for former President Reagan’s second run for the White House.

“That’s kind of where I got the bug to get involved,” Walker said.

Walker left Oregon to study political science at Brigham Young University, where he met his wife. When he returned, he was hired by Oregon Right to Life, where he worked two years as political director before getting hired by Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Since that time, his group has played a pivotal part in defeating Measure 28 and Measure 30.

But being the face of the fight against tax increases hasn’t always gained him a lot of friends, he said. Walker said he regularly receives threatening letters, phone calls and packages — one which contained cow manure — in the mail.

“I have to be pretty careful. A lot of people just get caught in the heat of the moment,” he said.

Throughout it all, Walker keeps on task —preaching fiscal conservatism and doing his job.

“It’s amazing that people tend to forget that cities, counties and states are all trying to attract businesses to their areas. When you raise your taxes too high, businesses flee. It’s something that all cities are dealing with and it’s the kind of stuff that will continue to happen if people don’t stand up and say something,” he said.

Crystal Bolner can be reached at (503) 589-6967.