The passing of former Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh earlier this week has prompted an outpouring of positive comments about the last Republican governor in Oregon, both for his accomplishments as well as for the positive way he conducted himself while he held the state's top political job.
Memories abound for me because I had the privilege of serving in the Atiyeh Administration and did a stint as the Governor's press secretary.
Senator Peter Courtney captured the man well in his tribute: "Governor Vic Atiyeh was a kind and gentle man. He had a great smile and a great way of dealing with people. He was the ultimate public servant in the truest sense of the word. There was no greater role model. He led our state during the most difficult of times. He found a way to make things work when everything was going against us. He brought out the best in people by appealing to the best in each and every person. He never focused on the negative. Oregon is saying goodbye to one of its greatest statesmen and one of its most remarkable citizens."
Here is a quick collection of my own memories:
Coming back to Oregon: After working in Washington, D.C., for Democratic Congressman Les AuCoin, I returned to Oregon and joined the Republican Atiyeh administration. Like AuCoin before him, Victor — as we sometimes called the Governor — never asked me or any other staff member about political affiliation. The only question was whether I could do the job. (AuCoin didn't ask about my political affiliation, either, in what was in the 1980s a far different political moment.)
The governor's favorite sayings: His staff heard certain phrases repeatedly, so much so that they stick in my mind today, 30 years later. He liked to say, "Well, that's just part of the great pageant of life." Or: "There never are any problems — just opportunities." Or, as The Oregonian paraphrased this week, "You can do a lot if you don't care who gets the credit."