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Oregon elections director resigns three months before November election

July 21,2016 10:10

The director of Oregon's Elections Division resigned on Tuesday, with just three months until the November general election. In his letter of resignation, director Jim Williams wrote that he was "unable to continue my role in this agency for personal ...



The director of Oregon's Elections Division resigned on Tuesday, with just three months until the November general election.
In his letter of resignation, director Jim Williams wrote that he was "unable to continue my role in this agency for personal reasons" and that he was leaving "with a heavy heart and regret."
Williams did not elaborate and Molly Woon, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office, said on Wednesday that she could not comment on Williams' departure because it was a personnel matter. 
Williams served as head of the Elections Division since then-Secretary of State Kate Brown hired him in fall 2013. The division, which is housed at the Secretary of State's office, handles a broad range of elections services from registration to campaign finance reporting. Williams' career spans two decades and includes previous elections jobs in Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma, where he worked as Cleveland County Election Board secretary. When Williams was selected for that job, he was identified as a Republican.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins wrote in an email to elections officials and staff that the deputy director of the Elections Division, Brenda Bayes, will serve as interim director until the next secretary of state selects a permanent replacement. Atkins, a longtime Democratic aide, was appointed to serve the remainder of Brown's term after Brown became governor. Candidates including Democrat Brad Avakian and Republican Dennis Richardson are running in the November election to be the next secretary of state.
"I want to reiterate my confidence in, and support for, our new Interim Elections Director Brenda Bayes, the entire team in the Elections Division, and our partners at the county elections offices," Atkins wrote in an email to staff and elections officials Wednesday.
Val Unger, Polk County Clerk and president of the Oregon Association of County Clerks, said the announcement was a "big surprise."
"From our standpoint everything has been going really smooth," Unger said.
Unger had been in touch with Williams a few weeks ago about an upcoming county clerk's conference in August, where Williams was signed up to participate.
"I can't think of anything off-hand that would have caused the departure," Unger said. "We're all wondering."
— Hillary Borrud
hborrud@oregonian.com 
503-294-4034; @hborrud

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