Dallastown native Tina Kotek to become Oregon governor

Tina Kotek’s journey to the Oregon governor’s office — a winding road that included stints as a commercial diver, travel agent and child advocate — began in York County.

Kotek graduated from Dallastown Area High School in 1984, second in her class. She attended Georgetown University, but left, telling the Willamette, Oregon, Week newspaper that she felt uncomfortable in Catholic school.

She eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and was elected to the state legislature, where she rose through the ranks to become Speaker of the House.

This year, she ran for governor and narrowly defeated two opponents to become the state’s first openly gay chief executive. She joins Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey as the nation’s first openly lesbian governors.

Kotek, a Democrat, won 47.1% of the vote in Tuesday’s general election, beating Republican Christine Drazan by 3.6%. A third candidate, Democrat-turned-independent Betsy Johnson, won 8.6% of the vote.

“It’s an absolute honor,” Kotek told a crowd in Portland on Thursday morning after being declared the winner of the three-way race. “I can tell you that being who I am is important to Oregonians across the state. A lot of young people have come up to me and said thank you for running and thank you for being who you are. are.

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She is the third York County native to serve as governor in the United States, all Democrats. The other two served in their home states, the late George Leader, who served as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1955 to 1959, and current Governor Tom Wolf, who will step down at the end of this year after serving two warrants.

Kotek was born in York, the daughter of Jerry and Florence Kotek. Her mother died in 2007 and her father, a Korean War veteran and industrial engineer, followed in 2011. Kotek’s father instilled in her a commitment to public service. He served on the York Township Zoning Hearing Board for a decade, and he and his wife were election workers in the township, according to Jerry Kotek’s obituary.

Kotek represented his roots while serving in the legislature, always keeping a supply of York Peppermint Patties on hand, according to dispatches.

In high school, she was an accomplished student and athlete, playing three sports while serving as the editor of the high school yearbook and newspaper.

After leaving Georgetown, she moved to Oregon, working as a commercial diver. A damaged ear ended her diving career, and after a two-year stint as a travel agent, she enrolled at the University of Oregon, earning a degree in religious studies, according to a long profile of her in Willamette Week. She then earned a master’s degree in international studies and comparative religion from the University of Washington.

She moved to Portland and worked as an attorney at the Oregon Food Bank and then Children First for Oregon.

She ran for State House in 2004, losing in the Democratic primary. She raced again in 2006, and this time won. In 2013, she was elected Speaker of the Chamber. His nine-year tenure is the longest of any Oregon speaker, according to Dispatches.

She has been hailed as one of the most effective orators in state history, guiding legislation through the legislative process to address everything from housing and transportation to abortion and labor laws. and the environment.

Willamette Week reported, “Tina Kotek has steered legislation through the Oregon House with the same drama-free efficiency that she’s piloted a 2004 Honda Civic – methodically – through Salem since the first winning election in 2006.

Like Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, his vehicle is one of his trademarks. Wolf drives a Jeep and Kotek is known for its Civic, which has clocked up over 250,000 miles. His deputy principal told Willamette Week the car was in perfect condition, saying, “You could eat off the floor of that car.” His deputy also said, “Tina will not go a mile over the speed limit. She is a very careful driver.

Kotek and his wife, Aimee Wilson, live in a modest 1,089 square foot home, sharing it with their two dogs, Rudy and Teddy, Willamette reported.

Columnist/reporter Mike Argento has been on staff at the York Daily Record since 1982. Contact him at [email protected]

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