Inaugural Speech by Clerk Catherine McMullen

On January 18, 2023 Clerk Catherine McMullen was ceremonially sworn-in by Judge Wetzel in the board room at the Clackamas County Public Services Building in Oregon City along with five other recently elected officials. Photos, video and the text of the speech is provided below.

Clerk Catherine McMullen is sworn in and gives inaugural speech.

Text of Clerk McMullen’s Inaugural Speech:

Chair Smith, Board of County Commissioners, Honorable Judge Wetzel, fellow elected officials, county staff, and the voters and residents of Clackamas County, Standing here this evening as your elected County Clerk, I feel a great honor, immense joy, and critical responsibility to you the people of our county.

I gratefully acknowledge the Clackamas, Chinook Bands, Kalapuya, Kalamet, Molalla, Multnomah, Tualatin, Tumwater, Wasco and the many other tribes of the Willamette Valley and Western Oregon on whose ancestral homelands we gather. We recognize their accomplishments as the native stewards of these lands as well as the diverse and vibrant native communities that are an integral part of who we are today. Without a full representation of everyone’s experience we will never be able to imagine and develop a better future.

Tonight, we stand here in what is now Oregon City, the County seat, a county first created as the Clackamas District (one of four far-reaching Oregon Districts) in 1843, redesignated as a county soon after in 1845, well before Oregon became a state in 1859. At this time Oregon’s provisional government designated three key offices for local governance.

  • A Sheriff to keep the peace.
  • A Treasurer to keep the money.
  • And a County Clerk to keep and safeguard the public record. 

The County Clerk to this day acts as the official keeper of the County’s records, and ensures access to local government through conducting elections and managing public records.

Obviously now we have more elected offices. We have 11 elected officials that keep, protect, and serve at the pleasure of the voters. We have 16 incorporated cities, almost 100 special districts (think schools, libraries, parks, fire, water, and soil districts), and many unincorporated communities of distinct character and culture that make us who we are today.

To serve as your County Clerk and be a small part of this story of place and people from before Oregon’s statehood is a great honor. I am here to write only a page or two of the story, in service to the people of Clackamas County.

My family and I chose to make Oregon our home and to raise our children here in Clackamas County. We live in West Linn just on the other side of the river.  I have a rural upbringing, the oldest of three girls, daughter of small business-owners and a well-driller. We lived at the end of a dirt-road. It was the kind of childhood you take for granted until you leave home for the big city and only realize then that it was both unique and formative. Neither of my parents went to college, but they made sure each of their girls did. 

I have a BA from U.C. Davis, a first masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington, and more recently an executive Masters in Public Administration from the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.  I’ve served as an election administrator, mostly in Oregon, since 2015 after being a public librarian for more than a decade. As a librarian I helped people find information and resources to be successful in their lives. Success defined by that person, for themselves, their families, and their communities.  When I made the move from books to ballots, this same purpose of self-determination carried over into my role as an elections administrator and County Clerk.

As my ten-year old daughter says, “My job is to help people vote.” It really is that simple.

My job is to ensure that every eligible voter has easy access to the ballot each and every election.  And that each election is conducted accurately, transparently, and securely.  

I am committed to serving all residents and voters in our county.

My office oversees the Elections, Recording, and Records Management departments. The Clerk’s Office is nonpartisan and it will be a space where everyone has equal access to quality services and secure elections. If you have questions or want to learn more about what the clerk does; from elections to records management, real property recording to officiating weddings; I am here to listen and to serve.

As of tonight, I’ve been on the job for just over 100 hours and I say it is time for a status update. In this brief time I’ve begun to address our most pressing challenges head-first. 

  • I’ve hired a highly qualified and dedicated Elections Manager to bring stability and support to our hard-working Elections Team.
  • We’ve immediately moved forward on the March 14 Special Election for the City of West Linn and the May 16 Special District Election that is county-wide. 
  • We are addressing lingering issues from the 2022 elections and putting robust project management, proofing, and support in place.
  • Personally I’m building relationships with each of my 18 staff in 3 departments, as well as with stakeholders across the county and in our many jurisdictions. 

We are rebuilding public trust through demonstrated good and effective government.

We have work ahead of us. I have work ahead of me. But each of us in this room tonight and in this county has a part in upholding election integrity, strengthening democracy, and participating in local decision-making and governance.

I call on you to participate.

  • Register to vote. Update your registration when you move.
  • Vote. Vote in each and every election. Local elections are especially important.
  • Want to see a change? Consider running for office.  The first day of candidate filing for the May Special District Election is Feb. 6.  Remember, these are your community volunteers who have stepped up to serve on your school board, water district, or fire board.
  • Finally, find what works for you and Participate. Volunteer, be informed, and be an active part of your local government. Use your voice!

We are here for you and we are listening.  It is an honor to serve as your County Clerk. 

Thank you.

Published by clackamasvoice

Voter-focused elections administrator and candidate for Clackamas County Clerk