First Lady of Oregon Admits To Addiction & Mental Issues

Former Oregon first lady Aimee Kotek Wilson has spoken up about her struggles with addiction and mental illness, which has sparked concern about her growing influence in the governor’s office.

To show her support for the governor’s efforts in mental health and addiction, Wilson has been a regular at Kotek’s weekly policy discussions. Wilson is a social worker with a master’s degree in the field. During her 36-county listening tour, the governor was present at most discussions with mental health and substance abuse specialists to brainstorm state-level responses to unmet needs.

Kotek Wilson’s role in the governor’s office has been scrutinized since word got out that three top assistants were departing. Several sources state that the staff members’ departures were triggered by their ongoing disputes with Kotek Wilson. The abrupt shift in leadership has caused many current and former Salem insiders to wonder what’s happening.

Earlier this week, Governor Kotek appointed Meliah Masiba, a former employee of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, as a temporary adviser on matters pertaining to the possible creation of an official Office of the First Spouse. Masiba will earn $72,000 during her six-month employment as an adviser. After the first six months are over, a replacement will step in.

According to Monday’s statement from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, Kotek was the subject of a complaint. The group that investigates ethical violations has started a preliminary evaluation of the allegation, according to Susan Myers, the commission’s executive director. The commission will decide whether to initiate an investigation after 60 days of maintaining the confidentiality of the complaint’s details.

Maryland and California are among the states that have set up offices of first spouses, which employ paid staff such as schedulers to facilitate the legislative affairs of governors’ spouses or partners. Given the scandals surrounding former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancĂ©e Cylvia Hayes, this may be a contentious first for the state. But very few states do this.