Tootie Smith makes her exit from Clackamas County board
Commissioner has no regrets about her outspokenness during her four years
Tootie Smith may have only one regret after a single term as a Clackamas County commissioner, but it isn't about her outspokenness during her four years in office.
County Administrator Don Krupp referred to that quality as he paid tribute to Smith and Board Chairman John Ludlow during the board's final business meeting of 2016. Both lost re-election bids Nov. 8.
"I very much appreciated how clear and specific you are in regard to your opinions and preferences," said Krupp, who was the administrator in Thurston County (Olympia), Washington, when the Clackamas County board hired him in fall 2013.
"I know I have received a lot of criticism because of my persona," Smith said in response at the farewell Dec. 19.
Smith leaves office Jan. 3, when Ken Humberston of Beavercreek will succeed her in Position 4.
Smith led a three-way race in the primary with 47 percent — just short of the majority that would have re-elected her outright on May 17 — but lost to Humberston Nov. 8 by 51 percent to 49 percent.
Smith makes no apologies for her criticism of government, particularly regional policies that encourage more compact population growth and alternatives to highways. She shared those criticisms with Ludlow when they were elected in 2012.
But she also said she never meant that criticism for the county government workforce that is 2,000 strong.
"My heart is really breaking because I love the citizens of Clackamas County, and I love our employees," she said. "You know who you are, and you know you have helped me be successful in this job."
A fourth-generation Oregonian and a hazelnut farmer near Molalla, the 59-year-old Smith was a Republican state representative from 2001 until 2004, when she lost to appointed Commissioner Martha Schrader.
Smith continued her civic involvement, including the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon, which she was president of two years. She helped secure passage of 2009 legislation requiring training of athletic coaches to recognize symptoms of concussions and how to obtain treatment.
As a commissioner, Smith teamed up with former foe Martha Schrader — who rejoined the county board in 2012 after a two-year stint as a Democratic state senator — to promote redevelopment of Willamette Falls after Blue Heron Paper Co. shut its mill in Oregon City in 2011.
Smith led the effort to assemble a $25 million package for the proposed Riverwalk. Though she is a critic of the Metro regional agency on other issues, she is the county's lead representative on the four-way partnership (including Metro) to make it a reality — and she said she has had no quarrel with Metro about that.
Smith also was outspoken about the importance of federal timber payments and federal forest management policies for counties, and about working with community groups to preserve and promote history.
"We know where we are going because of where we have been," she said.
County Administrator Krupp also credited Smith with taking the lead in teaming up with the National Association of Counties to make available three health programs for county residents.
One program, run by CVS Caremark, offers discounts on prescription drugs at more than 50 pharmacies within the county. Signups are free.
Two other programs, which charge monthly fees per person or family, offer dental benefits and vision, hearing and diabetic-testing services.
Smith also took the lead in an effort, suggested by others, to move a memorial to Larry Dahl — the only Clackamas County resident to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration — from the Museum of the Oregon Territory to the Circle of Honor at the Red Soils complex of county buildings. The rededication took place the day after the Nov. 8 election.
Smith said she was disappointed in her election loss but is prepared to move on.
"I look forward to the next chapter in my life," she said. "It would not have been possible had I not served as a county commissioner."