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Patti Smith says it's time to pursue 'other opportunities'

Sandy-area political circles were stunned last week by the announcement that House District 52 legislator, Rep. Patti Smith, would not seek a fifth term this November.

Smith - a Corbett Republican whose district covers the entire Sandy/Mount Hood area, as well as parts of East Multnomah County and Hood River County - announced Wednesday, Jan. 23, that she is ready to pursue 'other opportunities.'

'Eight years is, boy, a long time to be in the Oregon House,' Smith said. 'I think it's just time for me to pursue other opportunities.'

Smith said she doesn't know what her next ventures will be, but she would like to address mental health and domestic violence issues.

She said she doesn't plan to be a lobbyist, and hasn't counted out the possibility that she will run for public office sometime in the future.

'I love doing the job and helping people,' Smith said. 'My days in public service aren't over. I think something will present itself.'

The representative most recently served as vice chairwoman of the Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, and was a member of the House Business and Labor Committee, the Joint Land Use Fairness Committee, the governor's Meth Task Force, the Rural Policy Advisory Board, the Oregon Heritage Caucus and the Legislative Council on River Governance.

In recent years, Smith pushed the state to declare certain areas of Highway 26 safety corridors and was a driving force in seeing the Cherryville cable barriers installed.

She was known for her personal service to constituents, meeting with them and trying to rectify their problems. Most recently, she met with the Kitchen family of Phelps Road to hear of their Measure 49 complaints.

'She represented the district very well,' said her Senate counterpart, Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches. 'I sure appreciated working with her all these years. She was very, very good at constituent service. She works at her job very hard.'

She says her biggest accomplishment in office was passing Jessica's Law, legislation that requires harsh penalties for sexual predators of children.

'The hallmark of my service in the Legislature has been to provide a voice for my constituents and to be a bridge from them to government and the agencies that are too often impersonal and laborious in their handling of human problems,' Smith said in a statement.

Smith says it's time to be around her family and her Corbett home, spending time working on her farms, enjoying her children and granddaughter and taking a breather.

'I have five kids, and I haven't seen much of them,' Smith said. 'They hate the Legislature. It's been a tough haul, tough on my family, really.'

The brutal campaign season also served as a deterrent, Smith admitted.

'I wish the Legislature in itself was more bipartisan,' she reflected, noting that she and Metsger are a model for how legislators should work together. 'There's so much bickering, and it's no different no matter which party is in control.'

Smith, who is gearing up for the Legislature's special February session, said she will keep her Sandy office open until the end of 2008.

She has no regrets of her time spent in service - only thanks.

'It was a hard decision to leave,' Smith said. 'I'd like to thank all my constituents for allowing me to serve. It was truly an honor.'

Smith's departure adds to the Sandy area's political uncertainty, as its other representative in the Legislature, Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, makes a run at the Secretary of State job.