Governor's Office Overview

Early Executive Authority

The executive authority exercised by Oregon's governor evolved through three major periods since European settlement in the 1st half of the 19th century.​​

Before the Provisional Government, executive authority was exercised by the chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company and the superintendent of the Oregon Methodist Mission. An attempt to establish a provisional government in 1841 led to the creation of an executive committee, but the attempt was abandoned as premature on the advice of John McLoughlin and Charles Wilkes.

The provisional government was established July 5, 1843, after 3 months of public meetings. Executive power was given to a 3-person committee elected by popular vote. The executive committee could grant pardons and reprieves, call out the militia and recommend legislation to the Legislative Assembly.

The Organic Act of 1845 replaced the executive committee with an elected "Executive of Oregon," informally known as the governor. The governor was popularly elected and served a two-year term. The governor was commander-in-chief of the militia, commissioned public officers, filled vacancies in public offices, granted pardons and reprieves, insured laws were executed, recommended legislation to the Legislative Assembly and signed legislative bills into law. The first governor, George Abernethy, was in office July 14, 1845 until March 3, 1849, when the territorial government was organized.

Territorial Governors

Oregon became a United States Territory by act of Congress on Aug. 14, 1848. This act made several changes in the governor's office. The territorial governor was appointed by the President of the United States and served a term of four years, unless removed by the President. Five governors served seven terms during the ten years the Oregon Territory existed. Only two terms lasted longer than 14 months.

The governor could call special sessions of the Legislative Assembly. Also, the governor could grant reprieves for violations of territorial and federal laws, but could only pardon territorial offenses. Laws passed by the 1853-1854 Legislative Assembly authorized the governor to appoint coroners, notaries public and the militia brigadier general and to commission militia officers. The laws also established procedures for the governor to extradite criminals.

State Governors

The Oregon Constitution was ratified in 1857 and provided for an elected governor. The governor's term was set at 4 years and no governor could serve more than 8 out of any 12 consecutive years. The duties of the territorial governor were retained in the constitution. The first governor, John Whiteaker, was elected June 7, 1858, nearly 9 months before he took office on March 3, 1859.

The Governor of Oregon has retained the powers and duties granted at the time of statehood. These include drafting and recommending a budget to the Legislative Assembly, initiating planning for future state activities and serving as the focal point for coordination of federal and local governments. The governor is also the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces.

The governor may call legislative special sessions and may veto single items or emergency clauses on legislative bills. The governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons and serves as chairperson of the State Land Board.

In case of vacancy or disability, determined in accordance with statutory provisions, the Office of the Governor respectively passes to the Secretary of State, State Treasurer, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.​​​​​​​​​​