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Oregon takes leadership role in governors' group

Brown will be second to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum in the hierarchy at the WGA for 2019-20.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Gov. Kate BrownOregon is returning to a leadership role in the Western Governors' Association.

One of 22 governors whose states and territories are represented in the WGA, Oregon's Kate Brown was elected vice chair of the association, which advocates for the interests of Western states and their residents and businesses, at the group's annual meeting in Colorado this week.

Brown will be second to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum in the hierarchy at the WGA for 2019-20. Traditionally, however, the vice chair is often considered to be the chairman-in-waiting, so it's expected that Brown will be elevated to the top leadership position for 2020-21.

"What's unique about the WGA is that it's one of the few organizations in the country right now where Republicans and Democrats are working together," Brown said. She is a Democrat, as is outgoing chairman Gov. David Ige of Hawaii. Burgum is a Republican.

The last time Oregon's governor was in a leadership role in the WGA was 2014-15, when John Kitzhaber was vice chair. After Kitzhaber resigned from office, then-Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming was elected to chair the group in 2015-16 instead.

Like similar associations, the WGA lobbies Congress and federal agencies on policies and practices, while also providing a forum for state and territorial offices from across the West and the Pacific region to share ideas. Burgum has announced he will focus the association's efforts on reinvigorating rural communities throughout the West during his term as chairman.

Brown said her goal will be to encourage more participation by governors from across the region.

"We haven't had great participation from all the governors in the West," Brown said. "I'm committed to making sure that we have good participation from a variety of governors, and that they feel like the organization is a benefit to them and their role."