By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Remembering two prominent politicians

Oregon, where statewide-elected Republicans are a rarity, lost two last week. They were leaders worth remembering.

Ten days ago, sitting Secretary of State Dennis Richardson died after a public, courageous battle with brain cancer. Two days later, former Secretary of State Norma Paulus died more privately of vascular dementia.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Richardson, an attorney and 12-year state representative from Central Point, was solemnized Wednesday in Oregon’s first state funeral since Gov. Tom McCall died in 1983. Paulus’s life will be celebrated in a public memorial service April 27 at Willamette University, where she graduated from law school without having a prior college degree.

Both leaders were subject this week to many kind words about their perseverance, service to Oregon and unimpeachable character in both private and public lives.

Several years ago, while working with others on a newspaper-related measure, I encountered Richardson’s style of hands-on legislating. Why, we wondered, was this committee chair spending so much time wordsmithing our bill? The answer became clear: He did it better, and with more legal precision, than most legislative experts.

That was the kind of intensity Richardson put into his public agency audits as secretary of state. We all are worse off for losing, too soon, his kind of targeted public service dedication.

On Oct. 12, 1984, I attended the Capitol press conference in Salem where Paulus announced her plan to stop the Rajneeshees from recruiting street people to take over Wasco County. She mandated rejection of all new voter registrations, with automatic appeals so officials could sort out the eligible from the ineligible voters.

She was the right women for the time. As legislator, two-term secretary of state and two-term superintendent of public education, Paulus was an innovative politician with a firm, gracious, engaging personality. She was the first woman elected to an Oregon state constitutional office (in 1960, Maurine Neuberger was elected as one of our U.S. senators).

Oregon Senate Minority Leader Jackie Winters wrote of Paulus: “Norma was such an inspiration to me … She paved the way for so many women in Oregon … She was a trailblazer and a true force to be reckoned with. Norma was a neighbor, a dear friend, a mentor, an inspiration, and a true servant to all Oregonians. I will miss her deeply.”

In today’s tumultuous political climate, there was a welcomed moment of bipartisanship this week in memory of prominent Oregon figures Dennis Richardson and Norma Paulus.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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