Congresswoman Gluesenkamp Perez visits Clark

The congresswoman and her husband visit Auto, Diesel and Welding labs

Left to right: Dean Gluesenkamp, Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Professor Mike Godson, and Dannie Nordsiden examine an electric car motor. Photo: Clark College/Susan Parrish

When Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and her husband, Dean Gluesenkamp, stepped into Clark’s Automotive Technology lab, it was familiar territory. The couple owns Dean’s Car Care in Portland and have spent their careers working in the business. 

Don Gonser shows the congresswoman the Diesel Lab. Photo: Clark College/Kevin Damore

Automotive professors Dannie Nordsiden and Mike Godson showed the congresswoman and her husband around the shop, where students troubleshoot engines and their sophisticated computer systems. The 14,000-square-foot facility allows students an opportunity to work on real cars, trucks and electric vehicles donated by local dealerships and industry workers. With a program history that spans more than 40 years, Clark’s automotive program are producing top-tier automotive technicians with a strong focus on hands-on learning and partnerships with dealerships that include Toyota, Honda, Dick Hannah, and Audi. 

The visit included a visit to the welding shop to see the aluminum boat that the students are making. Photo: Clark College/Kevin Damore

Throughout the two-year-program, all automotive students also get real-world experience working at paid apprenticeships in Vancouver auto shops. In their own repair shop, the congresswoman and her husband hire mechanics from local apprenticeship programs similar to Clark’s. Clark’s automotive technology program has regularly trained successful graduates for 40 years, with students moving on to work in auto shops and dealerships throughout southwest Washington and Portland metro area. 

After seeing gasoline-powered cars in the shop bays, the group gathered around a dismounted electric motor from a Toyota hybrid that students had been working on. Clark’s programs have kept pace with new technology and market demands. 

Next, the group toured the Welding Technology lab with professor Chad Laughlin and the Diesel Technology lab, where professor Don Gonser led the way to a red Peterbilt semitruck with the engine exposed. Gluesenkamp Perez stopped to peer into the engine before posing for a group photo in front of the enormous rig. 

Left to right: Interim Vice President of Instruction, Automotive Professor Mike Godson, Dean Gluesenkamp, Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Diesel Professor Don Gonzer, and Automotive Professor Dannie Nordsiden. Photo: Clark College/Maureen Chan-Hefflin


Photo: Clark College/Maureen Chan-Hefflin

During her 2022 campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania spoke often about her working-class roots, emphasizing support for small businesses, job training and local concerns, like the timber industry. Her family lives in rural Skamania County in the unincorporated community of Skamania, about 35 miles from Clark’s campus.  

A graduate of Reed College with a degree in economics, she is a businesswoman and a politician. Gluesenkamp Perez has served on the Washington State Democratic Party executive committee since 2020. She has been a member of the Underwood Soil and Water District Conservation board of supervisors since 2018. Her new role as the U.S. representative for Washington’s 3rd congressional district began in January 2023.   

If you are interested to learn more about the Clark’s Automotive program contact Hernán Garzón, Automotive Student Recruiter at or 360-600-2098.