A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Remembering Linn’s Steve Druckenmiller

Written September 26th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Campaign buttons and other mementos pretty much covered one wall in Steve Druckenmiller’s office Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.

The walls of Steve Duckenmiller’s office in the Linn County Courthouse stir up a lot of memories of many years of local politics and national events as well.

I had a chance to look around the office Monday after I got the news that Duckenmiller had died the day before. Steve and I had known each other for more than 40 years, he as a longtime county official and I as a news and editorial writer.

Steve Druckenmiller (Linn County photo)

Linn County announced Druckenmiller’s death in a press release written by spokesman Alex Paul, a lifelong newsman and former colleague of mine at the Albany Democrat-Herald.

Druckenmiller was 73 when he died early Sunday. I learned later that he had been diagnosed with cancer in March.

With a law degree, he started working for the county assessor’s office in 1979. Then he worked for County Clerk Del Riley and was elected in 1986 to succeeded Riley as the clerk. His current four-year term was his 10th.

One of the mementos on his office wall is Page 1 of the Democrat-Herald of June 8, 1982. The story by Kathleen Glanville reported Druckenmiller’s appointment that morning to a vacancy on the Board of County Commissioners.

The vacancy was created by a successful recall, a contentious period in Linn County history I had all but forgotten until I saw the page on the wall. On that day in June 1982, Druckenmiller vowed not to run for the commissioner’s office in the next Democratic primary election.  (Later, he changed his party registration and was unaffiliated for most of his time in office, which he ran in a strictly nonpartisan way.)

The county had just laid off more than 80 people because of budget cuts, and Druckenmiller was among the laid-off workers when he got the appointment.

The paper reported that Druckenmiller, left, had been selected to fill a vacancy on the county board that morning in June 1982. He’s shaking hands with Joel Fosdick while Dave Cooper laughs.

There were lots of other things on Druckenmiller’s office walls, including a campaign poster of Bobby Kennedy.

A couple of items recall the occasion a few years back when, at a conference, he and his counterpart from Lincoln County re-enacted the Blues Brothers movie act.

Others are yellowed clippings from the newspaper, including an editorial or two that have my name or initials on them (but I don’t remember writing).

The most striking item is the collection of campaign buttons from elections going back many years. That was Druckenmiller’s main thing —  elections, making sure they went on without a glitch and gave every citizen a chance to take part.

Druckenmiller was a strong supporter of voting by mail, which his mentor Del Riley and Oregon Secretary of State Norma Paulus pioneered. Druckenmiller conducted 141 vote-by-mail elections in Linn County, and he was always ready and eager to take people behind the scenes to show how the system made sure the results were accurate and came out fast.

I remember Druckenmiller and his chief deputy, Marcie Richie, showing me the lengths to which election workers go to make sure every vote is counted, even when voters are not exactly meticulous in marking up their ballots.

Druckenmiller insisted that his office be easily accessible to the public. I think this is one reason that when you go into the Albany courthouse, nobody is checking your pockets. He did not want people having to face a metal detector when coming in to register to vote or get a marriage license.

Druckenmiller was a soft-spoken guy. I often had to ask him to repeat what he just said. But there was nothing soft about his commitment to the public he served for so many years. (hh)

(I edited the original version of this story in response to comments by Jenny Druckenmiller, below)

Among the mementos: Yellowed clippings and other papers.

42 responses to “Remembering Linn’s Steve Druckenmiller”

  1. Kristin Roisen says:

    He was a liberal and so was Norma Paulus wanting mail in voting

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Dear Kristin, My dad was not a Democrat for long. After that first campaign, he registered as a Republican and later declared himself “Unaffiliated”. I wish the author had not shaped the narrative around my dad in this way.

  2. Deborah Swenson says:

    We have lost a great one. I never had to worry about having a fair election, when he was at the helm. He was all about honest elections. He may have been a proponent of mail in voting, but those so inclined to cheat found more ways to do it with mail in ballots. He had many safeguards implemented within his ability to try and keep everything honest. I don’t fault his efforts. I do think the only way to fix our nations issues with voter fraud is to go backwards in history, and resurrect precincts, voting in person except for the absentee and out of area military ballots. No voting machines, no extended voting time or days. Every where and everyone must vote on the designated day and polls close at a designated time. All ballots need to be guarded at all times with designated poll watchers from each political party. Steve wanted everything to be honest and above board it may be difficult to fill his shoes.

    • Mac says:

      A much better and more respectful reply than that of Kristin Roisen. I’m a republican but that doesnt matter here. He was clearly a good honest official and party doesnt matter. If anything you party only people are the problem.

      • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

        Thank you, Mac! My dad was not a Democrat for long. He, like Ronald Reagan, switched to the Republican party. When he no longer had to declare for one party or the other, he declared himself Unaffiliated. This article and another I have seen are written in a way that misrepresents him. He loved Linn County, he was devoted to fair elections, and he was proud of his work and the people who worked under him to make it happen.

    • Troy says:

      There is no national issue with voter fraud. It just doesn’t happen in any statistically significant amount.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Dear Deborah,
      Thank you so much for your kind words about my dad. Your summation about what made Linn County vote by mail exceptional was spot on. Del Riley, my dad, and the people who worked for him set a very high standard for vote by mail in a system that has many safeguards. The messes that happened in other parts of the country during the COVID-19 business bear little resemblance to the system his office put in place. For anyone reading, I would also like to make it clear that though my dad ran as a Democrat during his first campaign, he later registered as a Republican and then “Unaffiliated” as soon as that became an option for him.

  3. Cap B. says:

    Thanks, Hasso, for the tribute to Steve Druckenmiller. I’m glad to know he was a Democrat and sorry he had cancer. My sincere sympathy to his colleagues and family.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Cap B. They are appreciated. I feel like I should make it clear that though my dad ran as a Democrat during his first campaign, he later registered as a Republican and then “Unaffiliated” as soon as that became an option for him.

      • Cap B. says:

        Thank you. Hasso re-did his story, but this time he left out that your Dad was ever a Republican. (I don’t think I have met too many people more stubborn than Hasso.)
        I’m so sorry for your loss. Take care.

        • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

          Thank you for your good humor and consideration, Cap B. I wish you and your loved ones all the best!

  4. Jennifer Moody says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry to hear we’ve lost him. One of my very favorite sources and a thoroughly decent guy. Thank you for the tribute.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you for your lovely words about my dad. They mean a lot to me at this painful time for our family!

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Every time I visited him, he was a “gracious gentleman” in every sense of the words. He will be missed…

  6. Patricia Eich says:

    A lot of history. Thank you for the story Hasso. We’ve lived here in Albany since 1983 so remember a lot of this.

  7. thomas earl cordier says:

    Way back in the days of collecting signature for initiative petitions Steve was very helpful guiding our efforts and encouraging success. We had remained friends for many years after those efforts–would welcome me for a chat in his office. His people always respected him for his cool temperament even during stressful elections

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Thank you for your kind words about my dad, Mr. Cordier. It is a great comfort to me to learn about the good memories you have of him.

    • Anony Mouse says:

      Me too. I had never met Steve until 2013. My impression was “this is what an elected official should be.”

      Unfortunately, I also met several city councilors during the same time and my impression was very….very….different.

      Specifically, the mayor at the time. And I encountered a councilor at the downtown post office where were asking for signatures.

      What a prick. Sorry to say he had none of Steve’s positive personality and professionalism.

      We won the election and the city charter changed to enable voters as the final say on urban renewal plans.

      My hope is Albany politics have changed…but based on what Hasso has reported, not much has been learned at City Hall.

      • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

        Thank you for your words of praise for my dad. Knowing that you thought well of him is a great comfort to his family!

  8. Sharon Konopa says:

    Oh my, oh my I am stunned. Steve was very devoted in overseeing our election process and he was a very nice person.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Thank you for your kind words about my dad, Sharon. It means a great deal to me that people remember and think well of him. He is so missed.

  9. Jenny Druckenmiller says:

    Dear People of Linn County,
    This article and another like it that I have seen from the Democrat-Herald have written about my father’s party affiliation in a way that is misleading. My father first ran for political office as a Democrat, that is true. But, like one of his heroes, Ronald Reagan, he soon changed parties and registered as a Republican. When it became possible for his office, he later declared himself “Unaffiliated”.
    The version of vote by mail established by Del Riley and my dad was a carefully tested process with many checks and balances and layers of security and years of experience putting it into practice that bears little resemblance to the ad hoc messes that occurred in other parts of the country under COVID-19. My dad was extremely proud of the meticulous care he and all of his staff took in running fair & secure elections.
    It is a deep wish of mine that the articles could be adjusted.
    I pray that you will read the comments and see mine.
    I pray that people who knew and loved him will speak up, and that clarity is brought to the matter for all concerned.
    Jenny Druckenmiller

    • GregB says:

      Thank you Jenny for commenting on this site. My Condolences for the loss of your dad. From your comments, he sounds like my kinda guy.

      • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

        I am grateful for your words, Greg B! It is very comforting to hear you have formed such a good opinion of him!

  10. Jenny Druckenmiller says:

    Dear Mr. Hering,
    I am very grateful to you for editing this article in light of my comment. Thank you for making the correction so promptly. I noticed that the mistake that was in this article also appeared in Ms. Escudero’s article in the Democrat-Herald, so it also appeared the Gazette-Times, but I was unable to comment there. I hope that both can be corrected before the mistake is perpetuated elsewhere.
    My family appreciates the respectful and even fond tone of what you and Ms. Escudero wrote about someone so dear to us.
    Jenny Druckenmiller

  11. Ron Green says:

    I’m saddened to hear of Steve’s passing. I’ve never known a more fair or even-tempered person in any position, certainly not in such a crucial one as his. During one voting count, I witnessed the process from within and was pleasantly amazed at the security and transparency of our mail-in electoral system. Steve was masterful in his job!

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Thank you for sharing this memory, Ron! Thank you for your praise of my father and of the service he and those who worked and volunteered in his office tried to provide for the people of the county.

  12. Dick Olsen says:

    Living near the downtown and having occasional business at City Hall, I would usually cut through the Court House and occasionally stop in and say hi to Steve and often ask about whoever was running for whatever office. He was always glad to see me. Recently he was not available and now we know why. I am truly saddened by his passing.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Thank you for your visits to my dad and commenting here to share your memory of him. It helps a great deal to read your caring words.

  13. Larry says:

    What few know about LC Clerks office under Steve is: For the last 2 decades Linn County Elections Department has been the example of how to run and secure an election in Oregon. Steve loved the process and the people. When ever the Oregon SOS office was approached by auditors from organizations like: Her, Hillary for President, The Clinton Foundation, Harvard, Google, Homeland Security and others. The SOS would tell the auditor…. “First I will show you how it’s suppose to be done…. then, I will show you the rest.” The SOS always counted on Steve to have an open door, and he was happy to share his process.

    In 1998 when the State of Oregon switched to mail in ballots…. Steve and his IT support up until the last Presidential election was monumental in recommending, auditing, and securing the States election software.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      My dad would be so pleased to know you shared this testament to the quality of the work he and his office sought to provide to the people of Linn County. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

  14. Larry says:

    You’re welcome, the comments are first hand experience.

    In reference to comments Steve left on Commissioner Lindsey memorial page.
    Heaven was a noisy place… Now John has his friend Steve to catch up with.
    Treasure your memories.

  15. Richard H. Smith says:

    Why can’t the political insinuations and bs stop? This was a decent, hardworking man doing the best job that he could…let’s appreciate his efforts on everyone’s behalf!

  16. Andrea S says:

    Thank you for this kind write-up, Hasso. I didn’t know Steve but am glad to read of his commitment to fairness. He sounds like a very good man. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    Jenny, I’m especially sorry to read of this large loss for your family.

  17. Lydia B says:

    In the late 90s a friend of mine worked for the Elections Division at the capitol. He was telling me about some of the county clerks and their issues (without naming the counties) so I asked him about Linn County. His response was that Linn had the best-run elections in the state, bar none. So that wasn’t just what the SOS folks said for publication, it was what they really thought.

    • Jenny Druckenmiller says:

      Thank you for sharing this testament to the quality of work my dad and the employess and volunteers in his office worked to provide for the county, Lydia!

  18. Michael V. says:

    My sincere condolences to Steve Druckenmiller’s family and friends. He performed his duties as Linn County Clerk faithfully, with trustworthy integrity. It is interesting that he progressed from registered Democrat to Republican, then chose to be unaffiliated while still holding his conservative views. It is so refreshing to know that someone can still be such a dedicated public servant without a stain of political party bias. We need more like Steve!

  19. Jenny Druckenmiller says:

    Our family is very grateful for your good wishes, Michael! Thank you especially for your respect and praise for my dad!

  20. Jill Van Buren says:

    Dear Jenny, Peter, and all.
    Only learned of your dad’s death today from Caroline Oakley. Shattering. Not just for your family, but for all the people of Linn County. Those who knew how good he was at protecting their rights as electors, and also for all those who didn’t, but benefited as well. He taught me elections, and all the pride and honesty required as part of his brand of being an elections administrator. I will always be grateful.
    Everyone who knew him will miss his amazing personality and kindness.
    Most Sincerely,


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