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Brown's inauguration brings hope to local lawmakers

Local officials are optimistic that Kate Brown's inauguration will bring renewed energy to the Legislature after months of scandal in the governor's office, saying Brown is smart, scrupulous about ethics and knows her way around.

They also appreciated her brief, reassuring inaugural address that didn’t lay out grand plans on day one.

“Her talk was short, sweet and to the point, and her strength of character came through,” said Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, who has been a close friend of Brown’s for 15 years.

“We have one job now, to restore faith, initially, to reassure everyone she and her family will be clean and ethical about money. I don’t know how much the public followed the news or are shaken by it. They may have suffered a little shock and awe with a governor under duress and leaving very quickly. My guess is there’s no reduction of trust in government. This all happened so fast.”

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said Brown's inaugural was “concise, exactly the right tone. She talked about our shared love of the state. She talked about re-establishing trust and moving forward. When she was Senate majority leader, she chaired the Rules Committee and was very focused on transparency in government, with everything we did. When she was secretary of state, she had tremendous focus on a clear elections process, understanding your rights. She brings a lot of passion for all of that.”

Ashland Mayor John Stromberg said he thinks the ethical firestorm around former Gov. John Kitzhaber was idiosyncratic to two people, Kitzhaber and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes.

“I don’t think they represented the values of Oregon. That’s part of this drama that played out and still is.”

Stromberg, who has met with Brown before, said she is “very competent, intelligent and has good values — and it’s great to have a woman governor again. I’m sure she can figure things out as she goes along.”

He echoed the theme that it’s critical to move beyond partisanship “and connect with all people as Oregonians.”

Brown should help restore the timber economy of this region — in a sustainable fashion — and resolve the impacts of the Public Employees Retirement System on cities, he said.

Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer, a Republican, said the new administration “looks like it will be more open and accessible, and that can only be positive. I hope, though she has a supermajority and doesn’t have to, that she will work across party lines. I hope dignity can be restored to the governor’s office and Oregon politics.”

Former three-term legislator and ex-Medford Mayor Al Densmore said Brown’s inaugural address was “short and very appropriate for a person who succeeded in these circumstances. It struck the right tone, acknowledged the ex-governor’s contributions and worked toward restoring confidence in government.”

Officials here emphasized the need for oft-slighted Southern Oregon to be worked with as a partner, but, as Densmore noted, Brown “seems to know where Southern Oregon is. I’ve met her and been to dinner with her, and she’s a very nice person, with the potential to grow into a great governor. A big part of it is learning to listen to both sides, more like seven or eight sides. All we ever wanted in Southern Oregon is to be treated fairly on transportation, the effects of greenhouse gases, regional flexibility and the opportunities to solve our own problems.”

TV producer and former county commissioner Jeff Golden of Ashland said the impact of the Kitzhaber affair is overstated and that cynicism with government is a constant. As a resident of Southern Oregon, Golden said, he wants to see the new governor focus on continuing the pioneering work on health care, then the tax reform “that everyone has been screaming about for years, where people can keep more of their earned income, even if capital gains goes up.”

Bates said the attitude and level of communication in the governor’s office will improve, but he hopes Brown won’t change any department heads, as that would put the Senate through a long confirmation process during this session.

Buckley said the mood at the Capitol after the inauguration is “optimism, mixed with a great sense of seriousness, that we’re all responsible for bringing the state back together and accomplishing things. She’s very upbeat, a can-do type of person. She is very smart, knows the Legislature and the issues ... and is well schooled on health care. Kitzhaber was more experienced and had more depth on it, but both have the ability to get policy moving forward and get stuff done.”

Buckley added that “the former First Lady was a setback for us, but the new governor is very well positioned to address that (distrust). Oregon is tremendously resilient, as seen by the way we held together during the recession. I absolutely believe the state will heal and be stronger than ever.”

Buckley said no one in the Capitol has any word on whom Brown will appoint to succeed her as secretary of state.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, surrounded by family, is sworn in Wednesday as Oregon governor by Oregon Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer in Salem. AP PHOTO.