Karen Nibler is a fourth generation Oregonian, born in small farm community in the Willamette Valley on December 14, 1941. She majored in Psychology and Sociology at U.C. Berkeley; after graduating she took a position in a juvenile girl’s home. When her husband he finished graduate school, she accompanied him to the United Kingdom for a year-long fellowship. When her husband took a faculty position at Oregon State University, Nibler raised the couple’s two children, earned a Master’s degree in Learning Disabilities, and worked in special education. In the early 1980s the family spent some time living in Germany, which gave her “a different perspective of political issues and where they fit in government structures,” an awareness that served her well with her work in the League. She became a counselor with Benton County in 1987 and remained in that position until her retirement in 2001. Nibler notes that she encountered problems convincing employers to take her seriously after she had been a housewife for so long; she solved this by doing what many other women in similar situations have had to do, entering the labor market at an entry-level job and proving her qualifications.
Nibler joined the League of Women Voters in 1976, but the work of raising her children while working did not leave her with enough time to become deeply involved until her retirement. Her work with the juvenile department got her interested in working with the League at the state level: “I was interested in learning more about how laws were made in the state legislature while I was working in the Juvenile System. Measure 11 was passed while I was employed and it allowed juveniles to be charged and sentenced in the adult system. I thought this was unwise, so I went to the Capitol to see how the Legislature operated. Once you start following bills and committees, it becomes more fascinating because you have to find how it is resolved in the committees. I have followed Social Policy issues starting in 2005 so I have a good understanding of how the legislative system works and the present status of many of the laws and regulations in state agencies. But it takes an incredible amount of time and effort to follow bills and testify to the committees during a session.”
Nibler served as the president of the Corvallis League, which had 120-140 members. As she noted, “the job required setting agendas for board meetings, proposing activities and running community meetings. The president often has to find others who are willing to work on activities and work with public officials on presentations. It requires that you learn about issues and fields you had not investigated, so you understand and can ask intelligent questions. We hosted forums for candidates and town halls for public officials, so we needed to stay informed.” In 2008 Nibler became the League’s state Social Policy Coordinator in which capacity she writes reports for the League of Women Voters, testifies on bills, and sits in on legislative hearings. Today, Nibler also volunteers as lead cook for Stone Soup at St. Mary’s Church, works at the OSU Thrift Store, and keeps fit by hiking, kayaking, and skiing.
Currently the League of Women Voters focuses the Judicial Branch of the Oregon Government, environmental issues, and the Department of Human Services (DHS). Nibler remains active in the group. She is living a life of service and political awareness trying to improve her community.