Oregon Matters of State Podcast with Secretary Bev Clarno

Oregon Matters of State Podcast with Secretary Bev Clarno


Rich Vial: Welcome to the Oregon Matters
of State podcast. This is Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial and I’m here today with
Bev Clarno, the Secretary of State. Bev, uh, we’ve been talking about doing a podcast for
some time and I sense you’re really excited about this. Bev Clarno: Oh, very excited Rich.
Thank you very much. Rich Vial: Yeah, the, the sarcasm is actually dripping, so, Bev,
uh, this is something that we’ve been talking about wanting to do to give people the opportunity
to just get to know who’s serving them in government. Let’s start out by asking you
why did you bother, at your age, and we don’t have to, you can tell them your age, I won’t.
Coming back to the state capitol in Oregon, clear over the mountains, and taking on a
job like the secretary of state. Bev Clarno: Well, coming clear over the mountains in the
wintertime’s gonna be a challenge. That’s for sure, and I’ve rethought several times
my, uh, decision to put my name in the hat, but after 20, nearly 20 years in public life
in the legislature and the house and the senate, I knew I understood the secretary of state’s
office and felt like, um, carrying forward where Dennis Richardson had started, uh, was
something that I could and should do, and I talked to my husband about it and as always,
he was very encouraging, said well you know you can do it, so I think you ought to give
a try. Rich Vial: Well, I’ll tell you, the people in the State of Oregon are certainly
appreciative of the experience that you bring to this office. I think what they’d like to
hear a little bit about is why you have that kind of experience in the first place. What
in the world drove you to get involved in politics and maybe a little bit about your
background, what got you into politics? Bev Clarno: Well I don’t know exactly where it
started. I know it started on the hog farm for sure. But my background is, I was born
on the Oregon coast and, uh, moved from that area when I was 6 years old to my uncle’s
dairy in Redmond, Oregon, where I learned a work ethic and certainly knew that I never
wanted to own a dairy. Um, getting up at 3:30 in the morning to milk cows and milking cows
the minute you got off the bus at 3:30 in the afternoon was not my idea of really much
fun. But, anyway, then, um, of course I graduated from high school in Redmond and then I moved
to Sherman County, where I lived for the next 22 years, raising four children and being
involved in the hog business with my brother-in-law. We had, um, 250 sows and marketed about 400
hogs a month, which is a total head count at any one time of, um, about 3,000 hogs,
and, um, it was there that I was inspected by government inspect, inspectors and regulators
and, uh, I was overwhelmed at how, um, negative and picky they were and kind of in a punishment
mode, which I felt government should be helping me do the right thing, not being in a fining
and penalty mode. So, I thought if I ever get a chance, I will go into the legislature
and see if I can’t change the way government operates, and I’ve been doing that, trying
to do that for a long time. Still doing it, I think I have plenty of work cut out for
me. Rich Vial: You know, your book, Pigs to Politics, has really been, uh, an inspiration
for a lot of folks in terms of realizing that, uh, that you don’t have to be born into a
political life. Um, you, you mentioned you were born on the coast to a family that, uh,
were hardworking, um, worked in the woods, worked, uh, on the land. What did that sort
of birth heritage help you with? Bev Clarno: Well, I was really young when I left there,
but my dad was the eldest of 12 children, and, um, six of those were, uh, all boys of
course, and they were all involved in some sort of logging, except for my Uncle Jerry,
who started Jerry’s Jet Boats up the Rogue River, and my uncle, who was, uh, sheriff
in Gold Beach. But at one point in our lives, they were all involved in logging, which is
a hard industry to work in and you learn strong work ethic, and you certainly learn a work
ethic in a dairy farm and then next, of course, my mo, mother married my stepfather and we
were on a small farm in Terrebonne and, um, my brother and I irrigated and, uh, slopped
pigs and milked cows by hand before we went to school. So, um, I think having a strong
work ethic is something I just have always had and, uh, has motivated me to do the things
I’ve done. Rich Vial: Now as I understand it the family in, um, in the southwest coast,
that was the Boyce family correct? Bev Clarno: The ****, yes, the Boyce family. Rich Vial:
And, and they were then and I think still are active in community service and. Bev Clarno:
Oh yes. My grandfather was a county, um, judge for years. Those smaller counties have what
you call a county judge, so, um, my grandfather Allen Boyce was county judge, and then I have
a county commissioner down there that’s a cousin and a county commissioner over in Roseburg
that’s a cousin. So, yeah, and my, uh, cousin up in, um, Coquille was one of the first women
and managers of a city in, in Coquille, my cousin Patty. So, yeah, it’s, it’s rapid in
our family. Rich Vial: Now you mentioned that you grew up in Terrebonne. Bev Clarno: Yes.
Rich Vial: That’s a little tiny town that’s south of Madras and north of Redmond. Growing
up in Terrebonne, did you ever think you’d learn how to fly and, uh, become a real estate
appraiser and I don’t know, all these other things? Bev Clarno: No. No, I think as a little
girl in Terrebonne, um, I didn’t think much about day, other than day to day, how to get
through the day and how the things that I had to do and ride the bus to school and whatnot.
Um, in later years, some of the influence I had was another person who grew up in Terrebonne,
who was a guy that was a governor of Oregon, Tom McCall. I had the pleasure of meeting
him and we always called each other the Terrebonne kids, and, um, I didn’t have much time to
think about, uh, what I might do in my life. In those days most women was known as soon
as you got out of high school, you should get married and have kids. And I did that,
but I also wanted to do other things all my life and I got to achieve an awful lot of
the things that I wanted to do. Rich Vial: Um, Bev in your book, you spend some time
talking about some of the difficult things that you went through as a child and as a,
as a teenager. Uh, do you think that’s helped you in politics to have some empathy for the
people that you’re serving? Bev Clarno: I think so of course, and I always think that
after I got elected, my main job was to be sure and make sure anybody that contacted
me had an answer to whatever questions they may have had. Um, yes, my childhood was very
difficult. My stepfather was very mean, and I think he’d be in jail under today’s standards,
kind of wish that had happened at times, but, um, my brother and I worked very hard and
were mistreated, and I just think that when you go through things like that, you become
a survivor, and when you’re a survivor you understand almost everything anybody else
has had to go through many things that I’ve helped people in government with, um, have
been issues like that. Whether it be problems in, in their home or, um, with law enforcement
or anything else. So, I think it gi, gives you an idea of how to help everybody else.
Rich Vial: You’ve spoken, uh, often about when you were a legislature have an insider’s
or, uh, or, uh, folks that you could hear from outside of the capital helping you in
the decision-making. Talk a little bit about that if you would. Bev Clarno: That still
happens today thank goodness. Yes, uh, when I first got elected I’d heard a lot about
Medicare and Medicaid and our child welfare system and food stamp and fraud waste and
government waste and all sorts of manners and so I thought well, I’ll find out, uh,
how the system operates. So, I found out and asked the, uh, then person in head of state
government if I could attend the welfare training school and it just so happened I was elected
in November. I wouldn’t start to work till January and all the month of December they
were having a training course on how to become a welfare caseworker. So, I took that training
and what an eye opener that was. My heart goes out to caseworkers. They deal with all
sorts of human miseries and their job is very, very difficult. But I found out that helped
me understand more in the legislature about not only what people need, but what the caseworkers
are going through, and many of those caseworkers became what I call my whistleblowers, people
that talk to me about what was wrong in the agency and what was wrong with management,
and how management didn’t see what needed to be done because they maybe had never been
a caseworker. I was able, through all of those experiences, to bring up, I hope, a better
process, uh, to the legislative process in my committee hearings. Rich Vial: And, and
you still listen to those folks. Bev Clarno: Yes. I still have people that will talk to
me about what’s wrong with government and we see if we can make it right. Rich Vial:
The, your whistleblowers. Bev Clarno: Yes, my whistleblowers. Rich Vial: You’re, you’re
known as a, as a champion of the, uh, of the rural Oregonian, particularly the east Oregonian.
Um, when at some point you came over here to the west side and, and started working.
What, what caused that to happen? Bev Clarno: Well that was when I was in the hog business.
And unfortunately, I had a, had a divorce and I moved to Lake Oswego and, um, that was
the first time I’d ever lived off of a farm in my life, and it was, I lived here for 12
years in Lake Oswego and I worked downtown Portland, and you know, it was, it was a,
uh, culture shock I will say because for one thing, you know, we might leave our car on
the street in eastern Oregon and leave the keys in it in case somebody needed to borrow
it. You obviously don’t wanna do that in the city. And I found that out real quick. But
also, um, I felt very violated one time. I became a real estate appraiser and somebody
broke into my car and took my camera and all my stuff, and, and if you’re in a real rural
area in eastern Oregon, you can probably leave your car open and not worry about somebody
taking your camera. So, I felt very violated. I thought gee, this is not so much fun livin’
in the city. But it gave me an appreciation of what the people in the city go through
in the way of traffic and finding housing and crowded schools and all those issues that
I didn’t face in rural Oregon. So it gave me a better understanding. Rich Vial: And,
and you met your husband. Bev Clarno: Yes. I did. Rich Vial: Tell, tell us a little bit
about how it came that you and Ray Clarno got together. Bev Clarno: Well, I became a
real estate appraiser and then I had the opportunity to also, um, sell some properties that, uh,
Ray was, uh, vice president of Carnation Living in Los Angeles and, um, so the person that
normally came from the real estate division couldn’t come up from LA and Ray came up and
we had a good meeting and I sold, um, a big chicken ranch out in Oregon City and I think
a flax mill down in Mount, Mount Angel and I’d never even heard of flax mills. But anyway,
we worked hard on those properties and became good friends and when he would come to Portland,
he would always take my sister and I out to dinner. Very charming. Still charming. Rich
Vial: Well it’s been a real, uh, a, a lot of fun for me to hear your stories of family
and I can, uh, tell our listeners that you’re definitely someone that really believes in
the power of family to, to make our lives rich. Speaking of family, there was a family
that you got involved with when you were over here on this side of the mountain. The Hatfield
family. Bev Clarno: Oh yes. Rich Vial: Tell us just a little bit about that. Bev Clarno:
Well, as I said I became a real estate appraiser and, uh, I knew this lady named Jan Scopal
very well and the office I was in and her friend, Antoinette Hatfield, was opening a
real estate office in Lake Oswego up by what was the gazebo in Mountain Park where I lived.
And they needed someone to be a broker, so I became their real estate broker, and it
was really fun. Antoinette, uh, is a delightful person as well as was Jan. Senator Hatfield
would come in on the weekends whenever he was home and he was so sweet. He’d empty my
waste basket and I was very charmed by him and his wife, lovely people, so. Rich Vial:
Do you think that, um, had anything to do with your desire to become politically involved
later? Bev Clarno: I think Senator Hatfield and Governor McCall both influenced me. Most
of all, I wanted to change government, but certainly by meeting those two people I thought
were, I always believe they will have been influential in my life. They were what I call
statesman and those are few and far between today, so I really think they did influence
me a great deal. Another person I love dearly that influenced me was Senator Ken Jernstedt
from Hood River. He was a flying tiger during the wall, war. I have a picture of his plane
that he gave me on his wall. He was a great statesman as well. Rich Vial: I’ll bet you
just loved campaigning. Wasn’t that something you loved to do? Bev Clarno: Oh my gosh, of
course, yes. Campaigning is the most dreadful part about being a legislator. I always say
that’s the job interview and there isn’t a bit a, a, a worse one that I can think of
and campaigning’s a lot like putting your life in a blender and turning it on ’cause
there’s no off button once you start campaigning. You’re in and you gotta keep goin’ until you
drop and, um, if it wasn’t for the privilege of serving in the legislature, I would have
never campaigned again after the first one. It’s that difficult. So, my heart goes out
to the people that are willing to campaign and try to get in there and make a difference,
because it is difficult. Rich Vial: How, how did a woman from eastern Oregon end up as
speaker of the house of representatives? Tell us a little bit about how that happened. Bev
Clarno: I’m not sure. One thing when you come into the legislature in the, in the house,
you have 60 members and in your caucuses you may have, unless you’re divided evenly, you
might have 32 and 28, but you have any number of, of members in your caucuses, and actually
some of the people often talk a great deal. And I didn’t. I always kept quiet and learned
and when I questioned somebody about running and serving in the legislature, I said you
can learn a lot more if you keep your mouth shut and just listen. And I did that. And
then when it came time for the, there was a vacancy for leadership and I went around
and asked all my members if they would support me for being speaker, I got all their support,
so except for one gentleman. I mean he did give me his support finally, but he said you
know, um, well I’m not gonna tell that story here. It’s the same gentleman that said, uh,
I really think women should be in the home in the kitchen making cookies. Rich Vial:
Well, you were known as a pretty touch cookie, speaking of cookies. Um, and, and do you regret
any of the, um, hard decisions that you made when you were in leadership? Bev Clarno: No,
absolutely not. I, I think if looking back I made a, may have made more. It, it was not
easy removing members of my own party from a leadership position. But, um, my responsibility
as speaker of the house was to move the process along and to not have people, um, impede that
process or, uh, have issues that were important to them that were selfish in my opinion, to
throw a monkey wrench in the whole works. So, I just did what I had to do to make the
process work. Rich Vial: And you were also the caucus leader in the senate a few years
later when you came back to the capital. That, that caucus process, how has that changed
since the days that you were there? Bev Clarno: Well the caucus pro, process of course was
very different when I was in the senate because that was the year we were tied 15/15 and I
was the caucus, uh, Republican leader and Kate Brown was the Democrat leader and we
had to work together. All of December again trying to put together a memorandum of understanding,
um, to operate the senate, because you, you don’t have anybody in majority. Nobody’s in
control. Everybody, everybody’s in control they think and I, I see the difference now
when I come back and it, um, it seems a lot more, um, polarized in the caucuses, and I
wish it wasn’t that way. We had a lot of compromise, a lot of working together and a lot of respect
for one another and I think that’s the very best way to legislate. Rich Vial: Compromise
almost seems like it’s becoming a dirty word in the building here. Um, what, that wasn’t
the case when you were working here. Bev Clarno: No, no, no. Uh, I won’t say there weren’t
partisan conflicts because they were, but many times a lot of the issues were within
your own caucus and you ironed those out and, uh, but there was a lot more working across
party lines. Rich Vial: Right now we have one party with a super majority, um, did you
ever wish for a super majority when you were in leadership? Bev Clarno: Well I had a pretty
good majority when I was speaker. I had 34 Republicans and Gordon Smith was senate president
and he had 20. I think that was a pretty great majority and I don’t know that a super majority
is really a good balance of government. So, I guess I would say that when you’ve got a
majority where you can set your agenda and pass that majority without a, with some compromise
and the respecting others opinions in the other party, that that’s a good, that’s good
government I believe. But a super majority, whether it would be my party or, or any other
party, I think is not a good balance of power. Rich Vial: You were appointed by a democrat
who, um, lot of speculation about whether or not she was doin’ that just to make sure
that, uh, the republicans didn’t get strong again in this office. Do you think that made
any difference whatsoever in the way you conduct yourself in this office? Bev Clarno: Oh, I
don’t think so and I don’t, I don’t know that that was the reason. We have a long history
of serving together and, um, deep respect for one another. I, we don’t vote the same
but just because you don’t vote the same doesn’t mean you can’t have a good working relationship.
As the governor knows, I would work hard to do the very best I can here and I’m sure at
my age she wouldn’t expect that I would run again, although she never asked me that. But,
uh, speaking of age, I was told when I was sworn in that age is just a number and experience
is what really counts and so therefore, I’m the most experienced secretary of state Oregon’s
ever had. Rich Vial: Very good. Dennis Richardson held this office before you did and he had
a lot of respect among republicans, particularly here in the state. Well I would say not just
republicans, but many people in the state even members that were not republicans. What
have you done to try and make sure that the good things that Dennis was doing in this
office can, can be continued? Bev Clarno: Well, I hope I, I would like to think that
everything he was doing in this office was good and I’m trying to think that everything
I’m doing in this office is good as well. But I also have followed his audit plan, which
I thought was a good plan as I reviewed it, and, um, been trying to do the things that
he had supported in the legislative process as well. And, um, been very pleased with all
the staff that’s here. We have great directors of the various agencies within the secretary
of state’s office and, uh, I just feel like we’ve got a, a very, very good team. We’ve,
uh, shared with them that we feel like that with elections and audits that we are not
going to be doing anything that seems partisan, simply because we are audits overall Oregon
agencies and, uh, for all Oregonians and the same with elections for both parties and for
all voters. So, we’re trying very hard to do the things in the secretary state’s office
to make everybody proud. Rich Vial: Do you think that, um, that you’ll be able to leave
this office feeling like you’ve accomplished anything? It’s such a short period of time.
Bev Clarno: Well I certainly think so. I think, if nothing else, um, reaching out to various
legislators in the, in the legislative audit committee and members of the ways and means
and having a good working relationship with the secretary of state’s office is very important
and I’m striving to do that during the session and will, in the next session and during,
um, the interim. Rich Vial: You’ve talked a lot about the fact that your real desire
is to see good government. What things can the secretary of state’s office do that really
influence good government? Bev Clarno: Well I think the thing, the, the very best thing
we can is to ensure absolutely secure, honest, and integrity in elections and certainly to
have our audits division look at all, all the government that we possibly can in the
short time I have here to ensure that government is spending taxpayer money as frugally and
efficiently as possible. I’m very impressed with how many, uh, hardworking, dedicated
state workers we have in the secretary of state’s office and I know those same workers
exist in state agencies, uh, around government, but I want to be sure that all of the agencies
are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. Rich Vial: We were just talking
earlier today about the fact that, uh, you came from a small business background, uh,
out of government background, the real estate business. I came from, uh, nearly 40 years
of practice of law in private practice and we’ve been surprised at just how many really
dedicated, qualified, hardworking employees there are working here in state government.
Can you think of one story, uh, that you’ve heard in the last few days that Bev Clarno:
Well, the one gal that we, we’re certainly looking for, um, superstars as we go forth
and honoring them in the secretary of state’s office, but we had one gal in our call center
that just absolutely, uh, took over 100 calls in several days in a row and just performed
brilliantly. We call, I call that going the extra mile and that’s something I’ve seen
all my life. Anybody in agriculture goes the extra mile several times a day. And certainly
many other things that I’ve been involved in. So, recognizing the people that do that
I think is gonna be very important to let ’em know we appreciate ’em. Rich Vial: we
may want to even have some of those folks on this podcast. Bev Clarno: Yes. Rich Vial:
And hear from them and why they wanted to be in state government. Bev Clarno: Mm hmm.
Rich Vial: What do you think about that idea? Bev Clarno: Oh, I think that’s a very good
idea. Rich Vial: Let’s talk about budget just for a moment. Um, that was a, a really important
part of your legislative activity was being involved in budgets. How did it feel to be
on the other side of the budget activity? Bev Clarno: Yeah, well I came in just as we
were, uh, the ways and means committee was looking at my secretary of state budget here.
Uh, I did cut drastically a bunch of things in the budget just simply because I thought
they were things that we could do without and, uh, I’ve always been one that’s pretty
frugal when it comes to in-state travel and out of state travel, so those were where a
lot of the cuts I made. But I just believe with the technology today that the telecommunic,
communicating and training via lots of other methods can be done rather than so much travel.
The tough part of sitting here and saying I hope my budget is passed is recognizing
that when I was on the budget committee a few years ago, somebody else was worrying
like I have been today. Rich Vial: Talk, talk about budget transparency just a little bit
if you would please. Bev Clarno: Yeah, I think, um, one of the things that, well you’ve been
working on, is trying to look around at other states and see how we can be more transparent
in our state budgets and there are states that you can look at how their transparency
is and how they budget and actually find invoices down to the dollar so to speak of what has
been spent. And I would like to see us be able to get more towards that. I think it’s
important that government is transparent so everybody knows what we’re spending. Rich
Vial: And you think that’s true of every aspect of government. Bev Clarno: Certainly. Rich
Vial: Is there any aspect of government you could think of that should feel justified
in hiding their expenditures? Bev Clarno: I can’t imagine why. No. I can’t imagine why.
Rich Vial: Madam Secretary, uh, I wanna tell you how grateful I am to have been given the
opportunity to serve with you. Um, it is really a lot of fun. I have to just mention to folks
that, uh, this is an office where, uh, we may just be sittin’ here eatin’ lunch together,
um, our doors are typically open and the other executive staff wander in and out. Uh, I,
I, I have to tell you that I’ve enjoyed the fact that we’ve got a grandson that comes
in and acts as a Mr. Secretary from time to time. What, what do you think kind of, uh,
about that sort of, um, informality or, uh, human touch that you’ve brought to the office
and why, why do you think that’s important? Bev Clarno: Well I think it’s important. Number
one, I’m glad to have my grandson here because someday when he grows up, the capital won’t
be a place that he’s afraid to be in because he can be in here shootin’ paper basketballs
all day. Uh, I think it’s very important to reach out to kids and let ’em feel comfortable
in their state government and their state capital and I think it’s important whoever
works here, whether they work with us in this office or any part of the secretary of state’s
office, or any legislators or their staff, feel like that they can come in and say hello
and talk to us any time they want. Rich Vial: We’re sitting right now and, and I wish our,
our listeners could see this in an office that has memorabilia, uh, scattered around
from eastern Oregon and, and art that you’ve collected, uh, it really does feel like an
office that reflects your, uh, sort of personality and, and approach to life. I, I hope that
I’m not out of line in suggesting that as secretary of state, you’re hoping that many
people come and visit you here and, uh, Bev Clarno: Sure. Rich Vial: that you get to know
them. Bev Clarno: Sure, certainly. I think it’s their government. It’s their building
and I hope they’ll come say hello. Rich Vial: All right. Is there anything else you think,
uh, we better talk about before we close this up? I think we’re gonna have to do more podcasts
with the secretary as time goes on. Bev Clarno: Thank you very much Rich. Rich Vial: This
has been the Oregon Matters of State podcast. This is Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial,
here today with Bev Clarno, our Secretary of State. The date is July 30, 2019 and until
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