Elections director resigns ahead of November election

Jim Williams, director Oregon's Elections Division, has cited personal reasons for stepping down

Jim Williams was the director of Oregon's Elections Division. (Secretary of State's office)

SALEM, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Three months before the November general election, Oregon Elections Division Director Jim Williams suddenly resigned Tuesday citing “personal reasons.”

“I appreciate the opportunity to have served the Secretary of State and the people of Oregon for the past two and a half years,” Williams wrote in a resignation letter. “I take pride in all that we accomplished in the Elections Division during this time and to have been a part of many historical election events and activities. I will forever cherish those moments and my experience here.”

“Unfortunately, I am unable to continue my role in this agency for personal reasons,” he wrote.

Asked whether Williams was forced to resign, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office said she was not authorized to comment.

“There is very little I can say except this is a personnel matter,” said Molly Woon, Secretary of State spokeswoman.

Williams has been director of the Secretary of State’s Elections Division since October 2013.

Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins has selected Brenda Bayes to serve as interim elections director. She previously worked under Williams as the deputy director of candidate and campaign services.

“With Jim’s resignation as our elections director yesterday, I want to reiterate my confidence in, and support for, our new Interim Elections Director Brenda Bayes, the entire team in the Elections Division, and our partners at the county elections offices,” Atkins wrote in an email to staff members.

“Transitions are always a challenge, and I know we will all focus on the task at hand, which is ensuring a smooth and successful general election in 2016,” Atkins added.

Bayes will serve as interim elections director until the new secretary of state takes office in January. When a director is chosen, Bayes will return to her former position as deputy director. Democrat Brad Avakian, the state’s labor commissioner, and Republican Dennis Richardson, an attorney and former state lawmaker, are vying to succeed Atkins. Atkins took office in February 2015 when then Secretary of State Kate Brown inherited the governorship from Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned in the midst of an influence-peddling scandal.

Brown hired Williams in October 2013. Williams then had more than 20 years of experience in three states. He was executive secretary of the Cleveland County Election Board in Norman, Oklahoma, before joining the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. Before that, he worked for the Denver Elections Division and Automated Elections Services, a New Mexico company that provides elections systems support.

As deputy director, Bayes oversaw state candidate filings, processing initiatives and referendums and campaign finance-related election law enforcement, and publication of the voters’ pamphlet, among other duties. She has worked for the Elections Division since 1991.

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