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Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury remembered for a lasting legacy

FILE: In this photo made April 29, 2010, Democrat Bill Bradbury makes remarks during a interview in Portland, Ore.
Rick Bowmer
FILE: In this photo made April 29, 2010, Democrat Bill Bradbury makes remarks during a interview in Portland, Ore.

Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury died Friday. He was 73.

Bradbury served as the state’s chief election official for a decade, from 1999 to 2009, leading efforts that drastically increased voter turn out and government transparency.

His career in Oregon politics took off in 1980, after he was elected to the Legislature. Bradbury served in both the House and the Senate, and in 1993, he was chosen by his Democratic colleagues as Senate majority leader. His chief of staff at the time was Jeff Golden.

“Bill was a really joyful, passionate man,” said Golden, who is now an Oregon state senator. “He decided his life was going to be about joy and service no matter what his body was doing. I always found that a profound inspiration,” Golden said.

Bradbury lived with multiple sclerosis for more than 40 years. He died of unexpected medical complications April 14.

He was with his wife of 36 years, Katy Eymann, “delighting in a six-month cruise around the world, one of his lifetime dreams,” according to a statement from Bradbury’s family.

“His zest for life, his positive outlook, and his commitment to public service in his beloved Oregon are legendary,” the family statement said.

U.S. senators from Oregon Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden remembered Bradbury for his optimism, and his lasting impacts on state government.

“My friend Bill Bradbury combined smarts and decency to exemplify the best of what it means to be a public servant, always working to make his beloved Oregon an even better place for everybody to live and work,” Sen. Wyden wrote on Twitter.

Bradbury’s legacy includes implementing Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, the first of its kind in the nation, which has dramatically increased voter participation since 2000. He led the launch of ORESTAR, an online system to make political campaign contributions transparent and publicly accessible. Bradbury is also remembered for prioritizing environmental issues, watershed protections, and speaking frequently about the effects of climate change.

“Bill Bradbury may be gone, but he leaves behind a legacy in Oregon that will endure for generations to come. My heart is with all his loved ones during this difficult time,” Sen. Merkley wrote on Twitter.

Bradbury’s family said a service of remembrance and celebration of life will be planned and announced later.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Emily Cureton Cook is a JPR content partner from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Emily is the former producer of the Jefferson Exchange on JPR and has contributed award-winning programming to Georgia Public Broadcasting. Emily is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin where she earned degrees in history, studio art and Russian.