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Governor Kate Brown Is Not Cleaning House

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Despite multiple ongoing investigations into former governor John Kitzhaber's administration, Governor Kate Brown has retained a significant number of Kitzhaber's staff. 

In a press address at the Capitol on Friday, Brown said she would be assessing existing staff positions as the legislative session moves forward. 

Last week, the governor announced her new executive staff, which includes Chief of Staff Brian Shipley, Communications Director Kristen Grainger, General Counsel Benjamin Souede, and Senior Policy Advisor Gina Zejdlik. 

"We’re going to be evaluating positions on a case by case basis," Brown said. 

Brown's announcement last week means members of Kitzhaber's inner circle, including Chief of Staff Mike Bonetto, General Counsel Liani Reeves, Communications Director Amy Wojcicki, and Policy Writer and Speech Writer Roy Kaufmann are not in the current governor's office.  

Still, more than a dozen staff members from Kitzhaber's previous term remain in Brown's administration, according to the office directory. They include the governor's assistant and scheduler, press secretaries, and several deputy and assistant positions. See below for a full list. 

"I expect staff to align with my state ethics," Brown said Friday. The governor expanded on her inauguration day promise--not just that neither she nor any member of her family would seek outside income related to government, but that none of her staff would either. 

Kitzhaber announced his resignation Feb. 13, during the legislative session that began Feb. 2. Brown said her priority is a smooth transition, given that lawmakers are well into the session, and that the past weeks have been challenging for the governor's existing staff.

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for them," Brown said.  “It was very bittersweet, that’s the best I can say,” she said Friday of her swearing-in Wednesday.  

Brown's decision to retain much of the existing gubernatorial staff is striking in light of political analysis that the mishandling of communications contributed significantly to Kitzhaber's eventual downfall.

Political Analyst and Pacific University Political Science Professor Jim Moore said a media "feeding frenzy" escalated in the final days of Kitzhaber's shortened term.

"But it was mainly because there was a resounding silence from the governor and his staff. Were there alternative narratives and assumptions? Then tell us what they were. A colossal failure to communicate on Kitzhaber's part," Moore said. 

However,  Moore said that while the old staff will likely move on over time, the day-to-day operations of the office were never called into question. 

"There was never any complaint about Kitzhaber’s dealings with the media on policy issues, it was on his dealings with the media on scandal issues," Moore said. 

He explained that the logic in retaining staff from the previous administration lies in their familiarity with the governor’s agenda, the details of plans, and the direction of the public conversation.

"Gov. Brown will move them along as she becomes more up to speed on the details of legislation and policy preferences and puts her imprint on them," he said. 

Brown is expected to announce her appointment for Secretary of State Friday, March 6. 

See below: staff directory for Gov. Kate Brown's office, taken Feb. 20, top; staff directory for former governor John Kitzhaber's office, taken July 22, 2014 via Wayback Machine, bottom. 



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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