Oregon Cities

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s chief of staff is leaving, 2 other top aides in flux

FILE - Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek speaks at a press conference in Portland, Ore., Jan. 30, 2024. Three of the governor's top aides are departing or going on leave.

FILE – Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek speaks at a press conference in Portland, Ore., Jan. 30, 2024. Three of the governor’s top aides are departing or going on leave.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s office underwent a shakeup at its highest levels on Friday, with three of the governor’s top aides departing or going on leave.

Chief of staff Andrea Cooper, deputy chief of staff Lindsey O’Brien and special adviser Abby Tibbs are all departing the office in the coming weeks. Cooper’s last day will be March 29, Kotek’s office said, while Tibbs will transition to Oregon Health & Science University two days later. O’Brien will go on leave April 5.

The changes create a leadership vacuum in the governor’s office at a time Kotek is attempting to tackle twin crises of housing and addiction. Taken together the three women comprise three of four senior aides that Kotek’s office lists as its “executive” team. The fourth, deputy chief of staff Chris Warner, will assume the role of chief of staff.

Kotek’s office did not respond to questions about why Cooper was departing Friday, after issuing a press release announcing the transfer.

“I thank Andrea for bringing her experience to help lead my office during a whirlwind transition in the first year of my administration,” Kotek said in the release, which did not mention O’Brien or Tibbs. “We have all accomplished significant things for Oregonians, and she was instrumental in establishing a strong team of professionals. I wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Cooper assumed the role of Kotek’s chief of staff immediately after Kotek was elected in November 2022, after serving as deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Kate Brown.

O’Brien’s history with Kotek goes back to 2015, when she worked as communications director while Kotek was House speaker. She eventually became the chief of staff in the speaker’s office, and departed to work on Kotek’s gubernatorial campaign in 2022.

Tibbs joined Kotek’s office a year ago. Prior to that she’d spent nearly eight years at OHSU, where she is now returning.

News of the changes drew surprise from throughout the Oregon political world Friday, with some well-informed Democrats suggesting Cooper was asked to resign, and others saying all three women made the decision to leave on their own.

Four sources with knowledge of the governor’s office suggested the shakeup was due to personality conflicts between staff and Kotek’s wife, Aimee Kotek Wilson, who like other gubernatorial spouses has taken on a role in the office. A spokesperson for Kotek declined to answer whether Kotek Wilson played any part in the departures, saying the office wouldn’t comment on personnel matters.

Kotek’s office said it did not have any letters of resignation as of Friday afternoon.

This story may be updated.

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