As Gov. Kate Brown’s Tenure Winds Down, One Senior Bureaucrat Leaves and Another Gets a New Post

Katy Coba retires after 37 years; former transportation boss Matt Garrett rides again.

Gov. Kate Brown is heading toward the end of her tenure in January (she’s term-limited from running again), and senior state officials are making their own plans ahead of a change in regime.

Last week, Brown announced that Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, will retire Sept. 30 after 37 years as a state employee.

Prior to taking charge in 2016 of DAS—which handles HR, payroll, technology and numerous other functions for state agencies—Coba led the Oregon Department of Agriculture for 13 years.

In that role, she followed an earlier generation: Her father, former state Sen. Mike Thorne (D-Pendleton), oversaw his family’s wheat farming operation and also served in the Legislature from 1983 to 2001, rising to co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee. After leaving the Legislature, Thorne served as executive director of the Port of Portland from 2001 to 2011.

Coba is retiring from state service, but she’ll follow her father’s path to the port: Brown named her to the port commission earlier this year. She’ll be replaced at DAS on an interim basis by Berri Leslie, Brown’s deputy chief of staff.

Brown also announced she’ll reposition a familiar face for the final months of her term.

Matt Garrett, who led the Oregon Department of Transportation for 14 years, serving under three governors before stepping down in 2019, will become Brown’s adviser on transportation and energy Aug. 15.

Brown previously brought Garrett out of retirement to head the state’s response to the devastating wildfires of 2020 and then to help the state prepare for the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Eugene.