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Governor-Elect Kotek Keynote Remarks, Oregon Leadership Summit

Good afternoon. I am excited to stand before you today as the Governor-elect of the great state of Oregon.

I want to thank the Oregon Business Council and its partners for the opportunity to share some thoughts today. I have attended this summit for many years, and I appreciate all the hard work that goes into providing an opportunity for leaders to come together to learn and think creatively about Oregon’s future.

Our state faces major challenges – we all know that – and I can’t wait to get to work to solve problems with you.

As Governor, I will start by focusing my energy on delivering results on issues of shared concern across our state: housing and homelessness, access to mental health and addiction treatment, and successful schools.

After 15 months of campaigning, I know that these priorities are familiar to you. Many of you, and many Oregonians, are wondering – but how? How will you serve Oregonians who didn’t support you? What will this progress look like?

Good questions. So today, I want to share my framework for turning things around – AND I invite you to be a part of the solution. In addition to the policy priorities of Oregonians, three of my overarching goals for my first year in office will be:

  • Building trust across Oregon;
  • Increasing accountability and oversight in state government to improve customer service; and
  • Encouraging new and more robust intergovernmental and private sector partnerships.

First, let’s talk about building trust. I believe that the only way to build genuine trust – not only in me as Governor, but in our state government, from top to bottom – will be to deliver results on issues of shared interest.

That means delivering results for ALL of Oregon. I know that when all Oregonians do better, we are all safer, healthier, more prosperous.

That’s why, one week after Election Day, I drove out to Newberg to visit with leaders at the Oregon Business & Industry retreat. I said it there and I meant it: I want to work with everyone who wants to bring forward constructive solutions to our state’s challenges.

I’m grateful to several business leaders who have already been helpful in advising my transition team on systems and structures that will set up my office and agency leadership for success. I want to specifically thank Mariah Robbins, Curtis Robinhold, Angela Wilhelms, and Joth Ricci for their time, expertise, and insights in those conversations.

Building trust is also why I’ve prioritized setting up regular meetings with Mayor Wheeler and Chair-Elect Vega Pederson. Our entire state benefits when Portland is a healthy, economically thriving city. The metro region is facing serious challenges – and I will not be hands off while local families and businesses struggle. As Governor, I will make sure that we are communicating, collaborating, and getting real about solutions that will make Portlanders proud and excited to live and work here.

I ask everyone here today – no matter who you supported during campaign season – to believe in our state and its future. Please be engaged so we can rebuild trust and solve problems together.

To that end, today I’m announcing my One Oregon Listening Tour. I am committed to visiting every county in Oregon in my first year in office, with an eye toward building strong, working partnerships across our state – especially when it comes to housing, mental health and addiction care, and education. I will be kicking off this tour with visits to Yamhill County and Douglas County before my inauguration on January 9th.

My team will be working to plan future stops in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned for updates.

So, my first overarching goal is to build trust. Second, I will be focused on increasing accountability and oversight across state government. We must improve the experience of Oregonians who are counting on us to deliver services every day.

Accountability in government is one of the primary reasons that I ran for Governor. Public service also means customer service, and that must be the focus of everything we do.

Public service is about getting Oregonians what they need. Whether it was fighting daily to help people get unemployment benefits in the first months of the pandemic – or being angry about the disparate impacts of COVID in our communities – or seeing, day in and day out, our collective failure to help our unhoused neighbors ….

All of these snippets of the Oregon story in the past two years – and many more – motivated me to run for this job. Because Oregon can and must do better.

It is far too common when you’re in the halls of the Capitol to lose sight of the end game. It’s easy, and understandable, for politicians to declare victory once the vote is over or the bill is signed. Those are real achievements, of course. But I will push my team to reframe success. The real victory doesn’t come until the working mom enrolls her kid in an affordable child care program – or until the veteran living on the street moves into permanent housing – or until the student who’s been struggling to read knows the satisfaction of finishing her first book.

To fix things, we need to get back to basics. Oregon is counting on us.

As Governor, I will push for more discipline in how we manage our organization, focusing on operational excellence and working on the front-end to determine what systems and structures are needed to deliver the results we promise. I want to share a few of the actions I’m taking to make this happen:

In January, I will deliver a list of agency expectations when I take office. These expectations will serve as guideposts for what I expect of state agencies while I’m in office.

In addition, my office will be organized with an approach that focuses on spending more time directly with agency leaders, especially those responsible for my policy priorities.

Finally, as Oregon’s Governor, I’m the CEO of our State Government. In that role, I understand that I have 42,000 employees counting on me for compassion and leadership. The pandemic was hard on workers and managers across the board – private or public, large or small – it has been tough. We all had to pivot on short notice, support each other through workforce shortages, and do our jobs while our families were facing the same uncertainty as the rest of the world. These workforce challenges are not going away, and I hope to partner with all of you as we continue to strive to make Oregon a great place to live and work.

I believe that this approach will be good for morale, good for service delivery, and ultimately – good for business. I know that our state can succeed if we deliver on our promises and tackle our problems as Oregonians – supporting each other in a way that honors hard work and shared values.

So, build trust and increase accountability.

Finally, my administration will encourage new and more robust intergovernmental and private sector partnerships. That’s the only way we can solve some of our biggest crises, and it’s the best way to build a brighter future of opportunity for everyone. In addition to housing, there are three other areas where I’m particularly excited about the potential for creative public/private partnerships.

First, early learning and child care. I’ve heard from working parents, business leaders, and child care providers all over the state: the lack of affordable child care is a huge problem that is holding back too many families and businesses. I know this is a key element of the Business Plan and look forward to partnering with you on solutions.

Second, we need to work together to make the most of the opportunities presented by the federal CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. We can create thousands of good jobs; repair our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety; invest billions of dollars in the Oregon economy; and position Oregon for continued growth in the semiconductor industry.

Third, we must continue to strengthen and expand Oregon’s trade opportunities in places like Asia and beyond.

It’s quite a “to do” list. I ask you to join me and support me in meeting these goals. And, in turn, we will build a stronger, better Oregon together.

Here’s what I know: Despite challenges, Oregonians don’t back down when things get hard. We dig in, we think outside the box, and we get the job done. I’m really looking forward to moving Oregon forward, together.

Thank you.

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