Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ben Westlund, OR Treasurer

I first met Ben shortly after he changed his Party affiliation from GOP to Democratic Party. His stated reasons, and I have good reason to believe them, were that the OR GOP's intransigence, hobby horse riding, and general wankery did not reflect the needs of the State. This from a State Senator from a strongly GOP district. He started a run for Governor against Ted Kulongoski (D) and quickly withdrew and stumped for Ted. I got a chance to spend some time talking to Ben while he worked Baker Co with Ted in the Governor's race. I was impressed with both his personal integrity and his dedication to Oregon's citizenry.

Two years ago Ben ran for State Treasurer and I spent the day with him, riding him in one of our parades in the Chevy SSR with the top down, at lunch, and walking our largest park meeting and greeting constituents. There were quite a few stops with people Ben knew, he was a rancher and we have ranchers. These folks were Republicans for the most part and adamant in their support of Ben as a Democrat. Ben, his campaign staff, and I spent a long day together which gave me the opportunity to get well acquainted with him. Please understand that in my role in DPO I didn't say bad things about our Democrats, but I gave real support to those I liked and I like Ben a lot. Ben and his staff stayed in contact after his win, asking if I had ideas or concerns - and to say hello.

Not too long after Ben's win, my son died and one of the first phone calls I got was from Ben. He was genuinely distressed and spent very nearly an hour on the phone trying to make words work. Words are a politician's tools, they are his life and Ben tried really hard. Any of you who have sustained such a loss knows that words are inadequate because nothing is adequate, but the expression of caring and desire to help does help.

Ben's death last week was a personal blow to me. He was someone I liked and held in high regard, as an individual and as someone who tried to look out for his fellows. Oregon is a poorer place now with his passing and so is political life. I have saved this so that it will reach his family and friends a bit later, when the real sense of how much has been lost hits after the initial storm of grief. I know I have no words to fix anything, but I do want them to know that their loss is not only shared, but how broadly it is shared.

I am so sorry for their loss and our loss,
Thank You Ben


Carl Fisher said...

I wore my Ben Westlund for governor pin a lot this week. It was a tough week.

Chuck Butcher said...

Ben was an outstanding man.