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Home > State > Executive > Office of the Governor > Governor Kitzhaber

Governor John Kitzhaber

Governor John Kitzhaber

Governor John Kitzhaber

John Kitzhaber was born in Colfax, Washington on March 5, 1947, and moved to Oregon with his family at age 11. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College, Kitzhaber returned to Oregon to study medicine at the University of Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health and Science University).

Kitzhaber practiced emergency room medicine in Roseburg from 1974 to 1988, where he developed a deep interest in health care public policy. This interest, together with a concern for the livelihoods of rural Oregonians, compelled him to seek public service.

As a legislator, including eight years as Senate President, Kitzhaber brought lawmakers and interest groups together to enact a number of groundbreaking laws, such as the Oregon Health Plan. In 1994 and 1998, Oregonians elected Kitzhaber governor. While leading state government, he presided over eight years of significant economic growth. He won acclaim for his pioneering work on the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, a collaborative effort that brought together government and private landowners to protect clean water and native salmon runs.
After two terms as governor, Kitzhaber continued working to improve access to cost-effective health care, becoming one of the nation’s most respected voices on health care reform.

In 2010, he won election to an unprecedented third term as governor. Now over two years into this term, Governor Kitzhaber has presided over transformative changes to the state’s delivery of health care and education services. His efforts have focused on streamlining government, improving accountability, and demanding better results to ensure that an enduring prosperity reaches Oregonians in every corner of the state.


Governor John Kitzhaber
254 State Capitol, Salem 97310; 503-378-3111


Governor John Kitzhaber, Salem; Democrat; elected 2010; term expires January 2015.

The governor is elected to a four-year term and is limited to two consecutive terms in office during any 12-year period. The governor must be a U.S. citizen, at least 30 years old and an Oregon resident for three years before taking office.

The governor provides leadership, planning and coordination for the executive branch of state government. He appoints many department and agency heads within the executive branch and appoints members to nearly 300 policymaking, regulatory and advisory boards and commissions.

The governor proposes a two-year budget to the Legislature, recommends a legislative program to each regular session and may also call special sessions. He reviews all bills passed by the Legislature and may veto measures he believes are not in the public interest.

The governor chairs both the State Land Board, which manages state-owned lands, and the Progress Board, which sets strategic goals for Oregon. The governor acts as Superintendent of Public Instruction, directs state government’s coordination with local and federal governments and is commander-in-chief of the state’s military forces.

The governor appoints judges to fill vacancies in judicial office, has extradition authority and may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons of criminal sentences.

If the office of governor becomes vacant, the office passes, in order, to the secretary of state, state treasurer, president of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives. There is no lieutenant governor in Oregon.


Office of the Governor