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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek, left, and her wife Aimee Kotek Wilson smile while speaking to supporters before the results of Oregon’s primary election are announced in Portland, Ore., Tuesday May 17, 2022.
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 09 May 2024

Governor Tina Kotek has issued the following statement regarding the role of the First Spouse: 

“Fellow Oregonians, I want you to know that my focus is doing the best job possible for you and your families. I take responsibility for not being more thoughtful in my approach to exploring the role of the First Spouse. I am sorry for the way this conversation between my office and you has started. 

“I was honored to be elected as Governor, so that I could bring clarity and energy to tackling the state’s biggest challenges. My administration, since Day One, has held that True North, prioritizing the state’s homelessness and housing crisis, the inadequate system of mental health and addiction care across the state, and the need to improve educational outcomes for children with a focus on early literacy and summer learning. We have much to do together to achieve our shared goals, and with these priorities and a renewed focus on strengthening how state government does its work, I believe we have made progress and will continue to make progress. 

“My job as Governor is to see the entire playing field. Whether it is deepening my understanding of the needs of our entire state by visiting all 36 counties in my first year, collaborating with lawmakers to pass critical new laws and investments, focusing on the future success of the Portland Central City, or responding to the inquiries of individuals who contact my office – no topic is too small or too big when it comes to serving Oregonians. 

“First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson has been by my side for 20 years. The First Lady and I share a profound commitment to standing up for the most vulnerable among us, fighting for a more just world, and making sure we leave this world better than we found it. She is a social worker, someone with lived experience with mental health and recovery and someone who has throughout her career helped lift up the stories of others to make meaningful change. As a family, the First Lady and I jointly and intentionally decided that she not return to employment or have any outside income as to avoid any perceived or actual conflict of interest. And her work as First Lady is also unpaid and is on a volunteer basis. As a family, we have traversed Oregon on the campaign trail and on the One Oregon Listening Tour, reaffirming our faith that nothing is impossible if Oregonians work together. “In my short time as Governor, I have considered how Oregon can emulate other states that rely on the time and talent of a First Spouse who has no financial interest or benefit in state government. 

“There is no road map in Oregon for defining the role of a First Spouse, who is a 'public official' under Oregon law. I make all policy and personnel decisions for my office. I have sought guidance from the National Governors Association and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC). I am committed to defining the role of the First Spouse with respect to what we learn from OGEC, not only on behalf of this administration but future administrations as well.  

“After listening to and reflecting on the concerns of Oregonians who have contacted my office, as well as the advice of staff, I want to be clear about these things: There will not be an Office of the First Spouse.

There will not be a position of Chief of Staff to the First Spouse.

Other than staff that is assigned to support the First Lady in her official duties, no state staff will report to her or be supervised by her.  

“My office is also assembling a First Spouse Manual to spell out policies and procedures related to that role, including protocols for addressing any staff concerns or complaints. The First Spouse manual is in progress and is one of the reasons Meliah Masiba was brought on as a temporary advisor to my office. She reports to Chief of Staff Chris Warner. You can read her job description here.  

“Between now and when we learn more from OGEC, the First Lady will continue to accompany me and attend events representing the Governor’s Office, such as Tribal visits and ceremonial events, and she will listen to Oregonians about the issues most impacting them, especially in the area of mental health and addiction.  

“Your trust is important to me. I will continue to work hard to solve problems so that every Oregonian can have what they need.”

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