Barbara Uphouse Wong

Steve Murray
Wednesday - November 23, 2005
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Barbara Uphouse Wong

Barbara Uphouse Wong is the new executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission. She replaces outgoing director Robert Watada, under whose leadership the commission stepped up its enforcement and brought to public attention the shenanigans that can be involved in trying to get someone elected to office. Taking such a job may seem intimidating, but Wong said it’s inspiring.

“I think it’s a great feeling taking his position,” she says. “He’s built a solid foundation and he’s got a good staff, and it’s a great time for me to come in and build on that foundation.”

Wong was the city employee of the year when she appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in November 1986 as HPD’s officer of the year. She retired in 2000 after serving as assistant chief of police, and then went to the other side. She became a lawyer. Though not a defense attorney.

“Going to law school was a lifelong dream,” she says. “I had always wanted to go. In fact, when I was in my early 20s I was applying for law school, and at the same time the police department job opened to women, and the police department called first, so I never completed my law school process.”

After spending a few years nearly locked to her computer as an associate who hardly ever entered court or interacted with other people, she decided it was time to once again enter public service. And thanks to her experience with HPD and as a lawyer, she feels she has a leg up on the position.

“It’s a huge asset, and when you combine it with law school it’s even more so. To me it’s a perfect marriage of the two because the police department was investigation, it was enforcement, yet it was working with the community, with the people you served to solve their concerns. Law school was the understanding of the law so you can better draft laws and better defend cases.”

Wong said one of her biggest goals is to let people know what the commission is doing and to help them become informed on the actions of those seeking office.

“I want to continue improving the transparency and making campaign reports readily available to the public. One of the main things is we are having an advertising campaign next spring to let people know we have a Web site, and it’s so easy to log on and find out who the candidates are getting their contributions from and how they are spending their money.”

Wong has her work cut out for her. Hers is a job of detail, piles of paperwork, little thanks for a job well done and rules that can sometimes be confusing, though she says that’s no excuse. She seems just the person for the job.

-Steve Murray

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