Portland School Board Member Ends Voluntary Work With Secretary Of State

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
April 12, 2019 10:39 p.m.

A Nike executive and Portland school board member's work helping new Secretary of State Bev Clarno transition to the office has led to speculation in recent weeks.

Now Julia Brim-Edwards wants to put a fine point on it: Her work there is done.


Brim-Edwards said as much in an email she sent the Secretary of State’s Office early Friday — and shared with a reporter.

“With your formal and ceremonial investiture completed, your initial round of introductions/re-introductions of state leaders done, and the executive team recruitment nearing completion, your transition from appointee to Secretary is well underway,” Brim-Edwards wrote Clarno. “Given that, you no longer have a need for my assistance with your transition.”

Brim-Edwards, a global operations director for Nike, formerly worked for Clarno when the now-secretary served as speaker of the House in the 1990s. Given that fact — and Brim-Edwards’ continued familiarity with figures in the Capitol — her assistance in helping Clarno re-acclimate to Salem after years away made sense.

But it also led to questions, largely based on Brim-Edwards' role on the board of Portland Public Schools. The district was the subject of an unsparing audit under Clarno's predecessor, her fellow Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. Brim-Edwards played a key role in shaping the district's response to that audit, criticizing the document in a press conference held prior to its release.

That history led to concerns for two reasons: Brim-Edwards was suddenly assisting the person controlling the state’s auditing function, and Clarno dismissed three top officials in the office immediately after being sworn in — a move some took as potential retaliation. Brim-Edwards has said repeatedly that her role was minor, and that she’d agreed with Clarno not to discuss the auditing division.


Clarno also tapped her son, Randy Hilderbrand, and Oregon Historical Society executive director Kerry Tymchuk to assist with the transition.

Brim-Edwards’ departure comes as the new secretary made the first of an expected three hires on her executive team. The Secretary of State’s Office announced Friday it was bringing on Andrea Chiapella as Clarno’s new legislative director.

Chiapella most recently served as a policy analyst for the Senate Republican Office, and has also worked under two Republican state representatives. Her hire was the second in as many days for Clarno, who also plucked Senate Republican Office spokeswoman Tayleranne Gillespie to serve as communications director.

The office is expected to announce a pick for deputy secretary of state in coming days.

Clarno, a former Senate Republican leader and speaker of the House, was appointed March 29 to serve out the rest of Richardson’s term. He died of brain cancer in February.

The transition has brought tumult to the Secretary of State's Office. Clarno immediately fired three senior Richardson staffers: Deputy Secretary of State Leslie Cummings, Chief of Staff Debra Royal and Legislative director Steve Elzinga.

Clarno also is not renewing a contract for a unique citizen engagement and inclusion coordinator position Richardson created. And the office has seen recent resignations from Jon Heynen, who’d been serving as communications director, and Kim Sordyl, Richardson’s liaison to the state board of education.

Though Brim-Edwards’ assistance has apparently ended, she says she’s happy to help in the future, if Clarno calls.

“I appreciate your ongoing willingness to serve the citizens of the State of Oregon,” she wrote, “and please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can do anything to be helpful to you or the staff.”