• Oregon Government Ethics Commission, 1974-1979.
  • Chief of Staff, Governor Victor Atiyeh, 1981-1986.

About Gerry Thompson

Gerry Thompson has deep family roots in Oregon, with ancestors on both sides of her family traveling on the Oregon trail. Thompson grew up in Salem and remained there as an adult. She has been enthralled by the Capitol Building and the legislative process throughout her life. Her first exposure to politics was collating and assembling legislative bills as a high school student. At the time she notes: ”It meant a lot. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it meant a lot.” She continued this interest during high school while in Girls State and Girls Nation.

As an adult, Thompson actively volunteered for multiple activities for the Republican Party, particularly in Marion County. She never had any ambition to become involved in politics, but enjoyed volunteering. Thompson joined the local women’s Republican group and helped with any kind of political event that was happening. In 1974, Thompson became a member of Oregon’s new Government Ethics Commission, eventually becoming its chair.

Being a strong supporter of then Sen. Vic Atiyeh, Thompson worked on his first two gubernatorial campaigns; his loss in 1974, and his successful bid for governor in 1978. Thompson became Gov. Atiyeh’s chief of staff during his second term in office; the first woman to hold that post in Oregon. Her years as chief of staff were exciting and challenging. Oregon suffered from a deep multi-year recession that rocked Oregon’s economy during her tenure. Also, Thompson had responsibility for handling the political and cultural consequences resulting from the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers’ temporary residence in Oregon.

Reflecting on her life in politics during her oral history, Gerry Thompson stated: “It was just an incredible experience. “

– Interview recorded March 4, 2022