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.
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.
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)