A Pioneer governor’s ascent to power

via Kate Brown's twitter
via Kate Brown's Flikr
via Kate Brown’s Flikr

LC Alumna Kate Brown (‘85) takes the highest office in the land—in Oregon, that is.

By Julie Oatfield /// Staff Writer

It is time once again to set our sights on Oregon’s future, to stretch our wings toward new horizons. Today is nearly half gone; tomorrow awaits, full of promise. Now it’s time to get to work,” Governor Kate Brown said in her swearing-in speech.

Oregon has a brand new governor, but she’s no newbie to the Lewis & Clark community.

After former governor John Kitzhaber stepped down after nearly four terms, Governor Kate Brown was sworn in on Wednesday, Feb 18. Chances are Brown brought along her Lewis & Clark Law School diploma to hang in the big office.

“Governor Kitzhaber dedicated most of his adult life to serving the people of Oregon.  His contributions to our state are well woven into the fabric of our public life,” Brown said. “But now, we must restore the public’s trust.”

Brown graduated from the LC Law School in 1985 with a degree in Environmental Law. She had come out of the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA in Environmental Conservation and a certificate in Women’s Studies. The governor-to-be stayed in Portland following her years on Palatine Hill. Several years of practicing family law, teaching at Portland State University, and working as an attorney with the Youth, Rights and Justice nonprofit preceded her political career.

Brown went on to serve in the Oregon House of Representatives and Senate from 1991 to 2009 before becoming Secretary of State, a position she held until this February. (Unlike most states, Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor; the Secretary of State is therefore next in line in the case of a governor stepping down).

LC Law School’s current Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Admissions, Martha Spence, shared a few words about the alum, “On a personal level I have always admired Kate’s dedication to the things she believes in, and her tremendous work ethic. I certainly wish her well as she takes on the challenges of the governorship.”

Regarding issues that may matter more to our generation as students, Brown’s “Meet the Governor” page on the Oregon government’s website cites her accomplishments in implementing online voter registration systems, easing political hurdles for entrepreneurs and small business and fighting for women’s rights in health and economic spheres.

“From the time I first knew her, it was clear that she was someone who got involved and worked hard on issues she cared about,” Spence said. “I remember that while still a student she was one of the prime student organizers of a national conference on women in the law.”

She co-­founded the Oregon Women’s Health and Wellness Alliance, which is “a bipartisan group of legislators, health care personnel, state and local agency staff and citizen advocates dedicated to promoting the health, safety and economic well-being of women,” as described on the organization’s online homepage. Brown has mentioned she is bisexual in previous interviews, and has received considerable media attention as the country’s first openly bisexual governor. Unfortunately, Brown herself was unavailable for an interview. On the day of the most recent attempts to reach her, she was busy with reading to children at Morningside Elementary in Salem.

“There is a great deal of work ahead of us, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it,” Brown said.


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