Incoming Gov. Tina Kotek has named Andrea Cooper, a veteran of state government and politics, as her chief of staff.
Cooper will be the first Black woman to hold that key position; four other women have held it during the past four decades. Cooper is the current deputy chief of staff to outgoing Gov. Kate Brown, a position she has held for two years.
Kotek announced her appointment Tuesday along with four more members of her transition team.
“Andrea Cooper is a skilled manager and a strategic, collaborative leader,” Kotek said. “She is ready to build a team of problem-solvers who will always put the needs of the people of Oregon first. I’m thrilled to have her coming on board.”
The chief of staff plays the central role in helping a governor carry out decisions and overseeing the staff within the office.
Cooper is a graduate of the University of Portland. She was chief of staff in the House Majority Office from 2015 to 2017, then left to manage Brown’s 2018 reelection campaign. She became political director of Local 503 of Service Employees International Union — which represents the largest group of state workers, a key constituency for Democrats — from 2018 until she became Brown’s deputy chief of staff in December 2020.
She has been on the boards of Bradley Angle, an agency that helps survivors of domestic violence; Emerge Oregon, a program that trains Democratic women to seek public office, and the Alliance for Youth.
Other women who have led the staffs of Oregon governors in recent decades include Gerry Thompson for Gov. Vic Atiyeh, 1981-86, when the job was known as executive assistant; Patricia McCaig for Gov. Barbara Roberts, 1991-94; Theresa McHugh for Gov. Ted Kulongoski, 2004-05; and Gina Zedjlik for Gov. Brown, since November 2020. (Zedjlik had been deputy to Nik Blosser, Brown’s chief of staff from 2017 to 2020.)
Kotek previously named Tim Inman, formerly a chief of staff from 2015 to 2018 while she was speaker of the Oregon House, as leader of her transition team. Inman is taking a leave from his job at the University of Oregon, where he is secretary to its board and assistant to the president.
Kotek has identified as immediate priorities housing and homelessness, mental health and addiction treatment services and public schools. She has until Feb. 1 to offer her recommendations for the next two-year state budget that starts July 1.
The others Kotek named Tuesday to various transition roles:
• Annaliese Dolph, behavioral health lead. Dolph previously was a policy adviser in the Speaker’s Office and is a lawyer with more than a decade of experience working on health policy. She will continue to serve in the administration after assisting with the transition.
• Karin Power, policy lead. Power, the outgoing state representative from Milwaukie and interim executive director of Business for a Better Portland, is volunteering her time to assist with policy work during the transition. Power was elected to the District 41 seat in 2016, but did not seek reelection this year.
• Taylor Smiley Wolfe, housing and homelessness lead. Smiley Wolfe previously served as policy director in the Speaker’s Office and director of policy and planning at Home Forward, the housing agency for Multnomah County. She will continue to serve in the administration after assisting with the transition.
• Abby Tibbs, budget lead. Tibbs, a lawyer with more than 20 years of public affairs and operations experience, has taken a temporary leave from her position as vice president of public affairs at Oregon Health & Science University to assist with the development of the two-year state budget that Kotek will recommend to the 2023 Legislature.