Commissioners appoint Bill Kennemer to Senate District 20
Former Oregon House District 39 Rep. Bill Kennemer has been appointed to fill the State Senate District 20 seat vacated by Alan Olsen.
Kennemer, R-Canby, was unanimously appointed to the position during a joint session with commissioners from Clackamas and Marion counties held via Zoom on Monday, Feb. 1.
In 2019, Kennemer retired as the Oregon House District 39 representative, a post he'd held since 2009. Prior to that, he was a state senator and a county commissioner. He also practiced as a psychologist for almost 25 years.
During a Zoom meeting on Jan. 23, the Clackamas County Republican Party selected Kennemer, Steve Bates and John Lee to advance in the process to fill the Senate District 20 seat. Bates received endorsement from Olsen, who resigned to care for family members.
"These are very turbulent times in our Legislature, our state and our nation," Kennemer said. "These very difficult times are a key factor in my decision to seek this appointment. I have a record of experience and success in the legislative process — 10 years in the House, 10 years in the Senate, and 16 in the minority. My record of successful bipartisan effectiveness, and working across the aisle as well within the aisle for common good, is well established."
Kennemer described wildfire recovery as one of the key issues before the Legislature. Additionally, he would like to see the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination expedited. He also discussed the value of advocating for Clackamas County's interests in Salem and the importance of being accessible to constituents.
"I have a history of going out to Estacada and our outlying areas, and being acquainted with those folks and working with them, as well as our urban folks," he said. "I think that's the kind of leadership and responsive representation that we need."
During deliberations, both Clackamas County Commissioners Sonya Fischer and Martha Schrader spoke in favor of Kennemer, but noted any of the candidates would do the job well.
Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas said it was difficult to narrow down the candidates but advocated for Kennemer because of his past experience in the Legislature.
"I know all three of you, and I admire the hard work you've all done. You're all very intelligent, you are very astute and your resumes are great," he said. "The fact that you are here today, and taking the initiative to be involved in the community and bettering our state and our county speaks volumes."
Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull noted that Bates received the highest number of votes from the Clackamas County Republican Party.
"Any one of the three men being considered today would make a fine and effective senator. I have tremendous respect for each one of them," he said.
"Mr. Bates, like the other candidates, has a record of tenacity and activism in introducing and pushing through legislation, which he did while not being an elected official."
Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis spoke in favor of Kennemer.
"It's not just that you've had experience. It's the right kind of experience. When hard decisions have been in front of you in the state Legislature, you got to work. It's not that you have relationships. It's that in my interactions with you, you don't use people. You treat people as individuals with dignity," he said.
Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith also spoke in favor of Kennemer's experience — specifically serving in the Legislature when redistricting was being considered.
"Clackamas County has experienced a huge amount of growth. We will probably have the sixth congressional district sweep through the middle of us, quite possibly," she said.
When votes were cast, they were all in favor of Kennemer. He will continue Olsen's term, which has two years remaining.
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