- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A glass ceiling was broken in Oregon Wednesday when a former lawmaker and hog farmer was sworn in as secretary of state, marking the first time in state history that women have held four of five statewide offices.

Bev Clarno is also the oldest person to have ever held the office, according to Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society. Clarno turned 83 on Friday and was on vacation when Gov. Kate Brown left her a voicemail, saying she was being tapped to serve in the state’s second-highest office.

Clarno, addressing a packed room in Brown’s office after being sworn in, equated age with experience and said: “As the most experienced secretary of state in Oregon’s history, I look forward to proving that ageism belongs in the same dustbin as sexism and racism.”

Applause erupted among those attending the ceremony, including Brown, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Treasurer Tobias Read, the lone male among the five statewide office holders.

Clarno succeeds Dennis Richardson, a Republican who died in February of brain cancer. Clarno, also a Republican, said in an interview that her first priority is to get a budget for her office passed. She also intends to quickly fill positions of three executives - all political appointments - whom she dismissed in order to bring in a new team. However she indicated she intends to keep elections director Steve Trout on board.

As the state’s top election official, Clarno will be responsible for overseeing the 2020 elections.

“As far as being a steward of integrity, fairness and honesty, I intend to be right there on the front line making sure our elections are run absolutely without question,” she said.

Clarno said her background in the hog business near the northern Oregon town of Wasco prompted her to start thinking about serving in the Legislature. She recalled that government inspectors came to check out her indoor hog business.

“I thought they were overregulating, “she said. “I thought, gee, I’m going to get elected one day, and government agencies should be thinking about the people that they’re regulating in the manner of helping us do the right thing and not penalizing.”

Clarno was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1988, and served as House speaker from 1995 to 1997. She then was elected to the state Senate in 2000, which was split 15-15 between Republicans and Democrats. She became Senate Republican Leader in 2003. In that role, she developed a closer working relationship with Brown, who was then a top Democratic senator, and other caucus leaders as they devised a memorandum of understanding.

“We worked through that and realized we had to share,” Clarno said in the interview. “We had to determine, number one, who was going to be senate president, and we couldn’t agree on that at all.”

They decided who would be co-chairs of the ways and means committee and then built the committees in negotiations that lasted almost a whole month.

Clarno told her audience Wednesday that there is no Republican or Democratic way to oversee elections and to conduct audits of state government agencies, but only a fair and honest way.

Clarno was officially sworn in Sunday evening by a judge in Central Oregon. On Wednesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters, Oregon’s first female chief justice, administered the oath of office in the ceremonial event.


Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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