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Veteran Political Staffer Jeanne Atkins Picked as Secretary of State

Saturday, March 07, 2015


Jeanne Atkins, a former non-profit policy wonk and top staffer to several top Oregon Democrats, will serve as Secretary of State, Governor Kate Brown announced Friday. 

Atkins, a long-time advocate for reproductive and women’s rights, will be sworn in March 11, 2015. In Jan. 2015, Atkins had retired from her position as state director in Senator Jeff Merkley’s office. 

"I will be diligent in carrying out the responsibilities of the office of Oregon Secretary of State,” Atkins said. 

Atkins also served as Chief of Staff to the Oregon Speaker of the House of Representatives, and was the Patient Service Director of Planned Parenthood for three years, and a manger of the Women’s and Reproductive Health Section for the Oregon Department of Human Services. 

“Jeanne Atkins will serve Oregon with integrity, transparency and good sense,” Brown said. “She is ideally qualified to be Oregon's next Secretary of State.”

Previously, she was Chief of Staff to the Oregon Speaker of the House of Representatives, and before that, the manager of the Women's and Reproductive Health Section of the Oregon Department of Human Services' Office of Family Health. 

Her non-profit work extends to the United Way of the Columbia/Willamette, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, and the Women's Equity Action League in Washington, D.C.
While Atkins received congratulations from other top officials, House Republicans have criticized the appointment as too partisan. 

“The law calls for a Democratic placeholder in the Secretary of State’s Office, but I don’t know that Governor Brown could’ve picked an individual with more partisan credentials than Ms. Atkins,” House Republicans’ Communications Director, Kara Walker wrote in a statement. 

Thursday, Brown appointed former Oregon Teachers’ Association, Lindsey Capps, as education policy advisor. 

“OEA yesterday, Planned Parenthood today - what’s tomorrow, Sierra Club?” Walker asked. 

The decision comes as somewhat of a surprise. Speculation had swirled since the governor’s swearing in over whether Brown would appoint House Democratic Leader Val Hoyle, or Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum. 

Atkins began her political career as a staff attorney and policy analyst for the Women’s Equity Action League in Washington D.C. Between 2000 and 2006, she was a member of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Sexual Assault.Atkins has severed on staff of for the Oregon House Democrats and was Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House of Representatives. 


Related Slideshow: Governor Kate Brown Announces Executive Team Staff Members

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Brian Shipley - Chief of Staff

Brian comes to the Governor’s Office after having served in the government relations department at Oregon Health & Science University. Prior to that, he held positions throughout state government, including serving as Kate Brown’s Deputy Secretary of State and as a member of Governor Ted Kulongoski’s executive team. He also was Chief of Staff for the Senate Majority Leader and Director of Legislation for the Peter Courtney, President of the Senate.

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Benjamin Souede - General Counsel

Ben graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and cum laude in 2002 from Harvard Law School. After law school, he served as a judicial law clerk for the Hon. Susan P. Graber of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After completing his clerkship, Ben moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as a Senior Advisor to then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). 
Ben began his legal practice with the leading D.C. litigation firm Williams & Connolly LLP. Upon returning to Portland, he continued in private practice as an attorney, first with Lane Powell PC and then as a founding attorney of what is now the Angeli Ungar Law Group LLC. He is also a founding member of the Advisory Board to the Oregon Innocence Project.

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Kristen Grainger - Communications Director

Kristen graduated from the University of Washington in 1988, and has been vice president and assistant to the president at Willamette University since 2002. Prior, she worked in Oregon state politics for more than 13 years as a journalist, political advisor and legislative advocate, including service with Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers from 1996 to 2002, and communications director for Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.  

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Gina Zejdlik - Senior Policy Advisor

Gina is a graduate of the University of Washington and Notre Dame law school. She previously worked as a Deputy Legislative Counsel for the Oregon Legislature with an emphasis on government ethics, redistricting and election law. After serving as Legislative Director for Secretary of State Kate Brown, she was appointed Interim Elections Director. Most recently, Gina served as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State.


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