Salem, OR — In her capacity as a member of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade is proud to announce the winners of the John Lewis Youth Leadership Awards and the NASS Medallion Awards to an incredible group of dedicated Oregonians. In light of the ongoing threats, harassment and false information campaigns targeting the people who make our democracy work, this year’s awards focus on Oregon’s county elections officials and members of the Oregon Translation Advisory Council. The NASS medallions are presented to five former county elections officials: Dana Jenkins, Lincoln County Clerk (38 years of service, 32 as county clerk); Robin Church, Union County Clerk (32 years of service, 16 as county clerk); Renee’ Kolen, Curry County Clerk (37 years of service, 30 as county clerk); Mickie Kawai, Washington County Elections Division Manager (33 years of service); Cheryl Betschart, Lane County Clerk (20+ years of service, 12 as county clerk). Since 2020, almost a third of county clerks in Oregon have retired or left their position. In November 2023, the Elections and Voting Information Center at Reed College released the Oregon County Election Staffing Research Study, which was commissioned by the Oregon Elections Division to better understand the pressures and challenges facing local elections offices. The report highlights the obstacles clerks across the state face, writing: “Far too many of the county clerks are subject to abuse, threats, and harassment. As a consequence, local election offices have experienced a wave of retirements, resignations, and loss of expertise, and it isn’t clear how this expertise will be replaced.” “County clerks are the backbone of our democracy and elections infrastructure,” said Secretary Griffin-Valade. “The five former clerks receiving the awards are dedicated, inspiring, and respected public servants. They stood on the front lines of democracy to defend election integrity and transparency.” The Oregon Secretary of State and the Oregon Election Division will continue to champion the incredible work and public service of the dedicated people on the frontlines of protecting and safeguarding our elections and democracy. The John Lewis Youth Leadership Awards recognize gifted, civic-minded young people. The award recipients must demonstrate leadership abilities, have a passion for social justice and be motivated to improve the quality of their community, address civil rights issues like voting rights, and bring positive change.