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Last week, I visited elections officers in Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Union, Wallowa, Umatilla, Morrow, Gilliam, Wheeler, and Jefferson counties. It was great to meet with so many amazing Oregonians, including the outstanding public servants who run our elections systems. We are in good hands.

On this trip, I was accompanied by a staff member who helped facilitate our many meetings. Together, we toured elections offices, listening and asking questions and taking notes. We also shared the many long hours of driving.

Recently, my executive staff expressed concerns about my safety during these frequent trips around the state and explored adding security services to my official compensation package. They envisioned certifying an existing staff member with online security training that would cost a few hundred dollars at most.

I appreciate my staff’s concern for my safety. However, due to some public comments, it has come to my attention that providing “security” to the Secretary of State could be abused by future holders of this office. Although I might spend a few hundred dollars for situational awareness training, future holders of this office could be empowered to provide taxpayer-funded bodyguard and chauffeur services. Therefore, I am unwilling to set a precedent that could be abused by a future Secretary who does not prioritize fiscal responsibility like I do. Based on the above concerns, if taxpayer-funded security for the Secretary of State were offered, I would not accept.

I am committed to serving all Oregonians with full transparency, accountability, and integrity. Part of my mission is to visit all 36 Oregon counties, county clerks, and Oregonians across the state. As I travel around Oregon, I will continue to take my own vehicle — currently my hybrid with 198,000 miles and counting.

I follow the example of prior Secretaries of State by traveling with an assistant who joins me in meetings and helps provide superior service. We also share driving responsibilities, and the state reimburses me for mileage for state business but not personal use. In order to increase efficiency when others are driving, I use my laptop, cell phone, and other mobile devices to maximize my time and value to Oregon taxpayers. I expect Secretary of State staffers to do the same when they are not driving.

In both my personal and public life, I have endeavored to act with the utmost integrity. My mission in this office has always been to serve you, the taxpayers of Oregon, with full and complete transparency, integrity, and accountability.

— Dennis Richardson is Secretary of State for the state of Oregon

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