Statewide officials take their oaths across Oregon
Three Oregon statewide officials took their oaths for four-year terms Monday, Jan. 4, in ceremonies spread out across the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic resulted in alternatives to the usual ceremonies on the first Monday in January at the Capitol in Salem.
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, the newest statewide official, chose the steps of Dufur School for her swearing in by Wasco County Judge Janet Stauffer, who lives in Dufur.
As a fourth-grade student, Fagan was encouraged by her teacher to join an after-school chess club, which eventually led her to win a state chess championship and turn her life around. She and two brothers were raised by their father in a one-parent household, while their mother struggled with addiction and homelessness in Portland.
Fagan was joined by her aunt, Martie, who held a Bible; Matthew Westerbeck, her fiancé, and Fagan's young son and daughter.
"No one should be surprised that she waived all of that (Capitol ceremony) to be on the steps of her school and demonstrate her gratitude to the educators who never stopped believing in her, and to the safety net of her family," Gov. Kate Brown, herself a former secretary of state, said in a video tribute shown after Fagan was sworn in.
Treasurer Tobias Read was sworn in for a second term by Supreme Court Justice Chris Garrett, who served with him in the Oregon House. With them under a neighbor's tent in Beaverton while rain fell were Heidi Eggert, Read's wife, and their son and daughter.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum took her oath for a third term from Lane County Judge Kamala Shugar, formerly a special counsel to Rosenblum at the Department of Justice. Among family members joining via video link were her 95-year-old mother, Louise Rosenblum, from Evanston, Ill., and mother-in-law Bev Meeker.
Democrat Fagan succeeds Bev Clarno, a former Republican legislator appointed by Brown to succeed Republican Dennis Richardson, who died of cancer in 2019. Clarno did not seek a full term in the 2020 election.
Fagan, 39, is a lawyer, two-term state representative and in the middle of an Oregon Senate term she was elected to in 2018. An appointee will fill her District 24 seat.
Fagan, in brief comments to reporters in a conference call afterward, said election security is her first priority.
"There have been some concerns raised by the outgoing elections director, Steve Trout, and we take those very seriously," she said. "I have already talked with him twice and plan to talk to him again."
Trout was Elections Division director from 2009, when Brown hired him, until Brown fired him in 2013. Trout got the job again after Richardson took office in 2017. Trout was fired again by Clarno after the Nov. 3 election, when he went public to the candidates about some previously voiced concerns about the status of election systems.
Fagan said the opening will be posted, and among those who will interview the finalists are representatives of Oregon's 36 counties, which conduct the actual elections.
"If he applies, he will absolutely be considered," Fagan said of Trout. "He has not indicated an interest in the job, but he has certainly been somebody willing to take my phone call and go through his memos so that I understand what challenges are facing us — and to let him know we are taking those very seriously."
Democrat Read, 45, was in the Oregon House 10 years before he was elected treasurer in 2016.
Read, in remarks that lasted less than two minutes, touched on accomplishments of the past four years. Among them are the initial enrollment of more than 90,000 previously uncovered workers in the Oregon Saves retirement savings plan, and the hiring of in-house staff instead of Wall Street consultants to manage some of Oregon's investments and reduce $500 million in costs for Oregon's multibillion-dollar public pension fund.
Along with Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, Read is a co-leader of Gov. Brown's task force overseeing recovery from the Labor Day wildfires that swept the state.
"As excited about what it is we got done, I know we could not have done it without you — and I am even more energized about what is to come. We have a lot of work to do," Read said.
"Despite our current challenges, the future is bright."
Read is limited to two consecutive terms as treasurer.
Democrat Rosenblum said her notes from 2017, when she took office for a second term, warned of "a gathering storm." Though that observation preceded the pandemic, economic downturn and wildfires of 2020, it anticipated President Donald Trump, who Rosenblum and other state attorneys general sued repeatedly in court.
"The storm has come at us from many directions and in many ways — too many of them deadly," she said. "These past four years, the now-gathered storm I feared the last time I took this oath has shown all of us — in dramatic and extraordinary ways — how the principle of the rule of law is our line in the sand between democracy and tyranny."
Among her state-level legal actions were to go after price-gougers violating Oregon's emergency laws and defend the governor's authority to issue executive orders during the pandemic. The Oregon Supreme Court upheld that authority and reversed a Baker County judge who nullified all the orders.
"I shudder to think about how many more Oregonians' lives would have been harmed or lost if those orders had been invalidated," she said.
Rosenblum turns 70 on Jan. 6. Her career has spanned private practice, the U.S. attorney's office in Eugene and Portland, Multnomah County and Oregon Court of Appeals judge. She now joins Dave Frohnmayer — her one-time law professor at the University of Oregon — and Hardy Myers as recent three-term holders of the state's chief legal office. She is the first woman to hold the job.
In addition to prosecution of hate crimes and protection of consumers, she said, her 2021 agenda includes legislation for gun safety and police accountability and licensing of student loan servicers.
"I plan to be as much of an activist attorney general these next four years as I have been the past eight," she said, adding a reference to Oregon's state motto, "We must fly a little higher."
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