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Capital Chatter: Bev Clarno takes oath of office

It was quintessentially Oregon: friendships transcending politics and geography, pledges to serve, and the pride of family.

DDD DDD - ddd dddIt was a personal and political family reunion when new Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno took the ceremonial oath of office on Wednesday.

Clarno's extended family filled two rows of chairs and lined one side of the Governor's Ceremonial Office in the State Capitol. Add in the politicians and journalists, and — based on the heat generated from the number of bodies in close proximity — I'm sure we exceeded the room's occupancy limit for fire safety.

As one bystander remarked, the event was quintessentially Oregon: friendships that transcend political boundaries and geographical lines, pledges to serve all Oregonians regardless of political differences, and the well-deserved, button-bursting pride of several generations of Clarno family.

Clarno, 83, privately was sworn in last weekend in Redmond after being appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to fill out the term of the late Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.

Her tenure got off to an awkward start Monday when she ousted three of Richardson's top executives — Deputy Secretary of State Leslie Cummings, who had been acting secretary since Richardson's death in February; Steve Elzinga, government and legal affairs director; and Chief of Staff Debra Royal.

Clarno told journalists Wednesday that she wanted to have her own leadership term in place.

In the interim, she does have top-notch advisers. Julia Brim-Edwards of Nike, Kerry Tymchuk of the Oregon Historical Society and Clarno's son and former legislative aide Randy Hilderbrand are volunteering their time.

When Clarno was speaker of the Oregon House in 1995-96, Brim-Edwards was her communications director, after previously working for Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Brim-Edwards now is the political face of Nike as a global senior director for government and public affairs. She also serves on the Portland School Board. Her husband, Randall Edwards, was state treasurer from 2001 to 2009 — an office that Clarno unsuccessfully sought in 1996.

As for Tymchuk, he lives and breathes Oregon history. And politics. In a blog post two years ago, CFM Strategic Communications called him "Oregon's Living History Master Storyteller."

Tymchuk is a product of both political nature and nurture. His father and brother were both longtime mayors of Reedsport, where he grew up. A lawyer, he served as state director for Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith and as a speechwriter and adviser for Kansas Sen. Bob Dole and Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole.

With Clarno taking office, Oregon made history. Women now hold four of the five statewide elected offices. She joins Gov. Kate Brown, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters — who administered the ceremonial oath of office — also was elected statewide as a justice, and her colleagues then chose her as chief justice.

True to form, Tymchuk talked history while emceeing Clarno's ceremony. He asked the five women to serve as honorary co-chairs of the Oregon Historical Society's centennial celebration next year of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

From the OHS archives, he brought with him an 1885 letter that national women's right activist Susan B. Anthony wrote to Oregon suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway. The letter concludes with, "I trust you will always report every work and word of women."

Tymchuk went on to say, "I can't help but think that somewhere today Abigail Scott Duniway is reporting to Susan B. Anthony the exciting news being made in Oregon today."

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or Twitter.com/DickHughes.