|Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 16th district
|Preceded by||Kelley Wirth|
December 20, 1973 |
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sara Gelser (born December 20, 1973) is a Democratic American politician from Oregon. Since 2005, she has served in the Oregon House of Representatives for District 16, representing Corvallis and Philomath. Prior to her service in the Legislature, Gelser served on the Corvallis School Board and worked for the Oregon Department of Human Services. In 2010, she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on Disability, and was confirmed to the position by the US Senate. In 2011, she was named a German Marshall Memorial Fellow.
Early life and education
Sara Anne Acres was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and is the oldest of four children born to John and Jo Acres. Although her childhood homes included New Jersey, Ohio and Indiana, she lived in Las Vegas for ten years before going to college in Indiana at age 16. There, she earned a BA in history from Earlham College in 1994 and married her husband, Peter Gelser. The couple moved to Corvallis, Oregon in 1994 to start their family. In 1999, she earned a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oregon State University.
Gelser first ran for the House in 2004, and was unsuccessful in her effort to unseat an incumbent legislator. However, when that legislator resigned the following year, Gelser was appointed to the House. She was then reelected to the House for four additional terms. She served as Chair of the House Education Committee in 2009 and 2013, and Co-Chair of the House Education Committee during the 2011 session when the chamber was tied. During her legislative tenure she also served on the following committees: House Select Committee on Education, House Committee on Child Welfare, Human Services and Women's Wellness, Health Care, Rules, Revenue, Human Services and Housing and the Joint Committee on Tax Credits. She served as Assistant Caucus Leader from 2006–2011, and for the 2011 session served as Deputy Democratic Whip. She was co-chair of the Oregon Women's Health and Wellness Alliance, and was a founding member of the Seniors and Disabilities Caucus.
Gelser worked on a variety of education, health, human service and finance issues. Her legislative accomplishments include the creation of statewide standards for modified and extended diplomas, the elevation of strangulation to a felony, strengthening the rape statute, improving child abuse investigations through Karly's Law, the creation of a medically involved children's waiver to allow children to grow up in their family homes rather than nursing homes, an overhaul of the state's response to abuse of the elderly and disabled and legislation prohibiting insurance discrimination against children with disabilities and chronic health care conditions. She played a lead role in the elimination of zero tolerance discipline policies in public schools, eliminating restrictions for school employees wearing religious dress in school, and granting greater autonomy to Oregon's higher education system. In 2013, she successfully spearheaded legislation to ban the use of seclusion cells in public schools.
Gelser was the only female member of the 2007 "5 Under 35" Caucus. With an influx of new Democrats, the 2009 Legislature included ten Democratic caucus members under the age of 36.
In September 2013, Gelser announced her candidacy for the State Senate. Senate District 8 encompasses Corvallis, Philomath, Albany, Millersburg, Tangent and the surrounding areas.
Gelser, lives in Corvallis with her husband, Peter, and their four children.