There's really no contest in this barely contested election for the most important role in Portland regional government.

FILE PHOTO  - PETERSONWe're not sure why Lynn Peterson didn't pick up a serious challenger in the race for the open Metro president position. It's a full-time paid political gig that can literally shape the region.

Maybe others realized that Peterson has a great background for the position. Or maybe they realized how tough the job is.

The regional government, which has a big say in how and where the metro area grows, is having some growing pains of its own. It is finding it necessary to play a bigger role in both transportation planning and is even contemplating a foray into funding for the critical need to create more affordable housing.

The Metro president needs to be able to see the big picture, while navigating the treacherous waters of local politics — especially between Portland and the surrounding suburbs.

Peterson knows her way around city halls, having served as chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners from 2007 to 2011, where she got good reviews from local elected officials. She served briefly as transportation advisor to former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber before heading north to serve as Washington's transportation secretary.

Peterson fell victim to a partisan flap in Olympia and lost her job early last year, just as she was mulling a run for Metro.

Her résumé puts her in a good position to lead the seven-member Metro Council, as it looks to expand its influence.

Her opponent, Michael Langley, has run for other offices in the past and kept a low profile this spring. In fact, he and Petersen hadn't met until he arrived (late) for our endorsement interview.

Langley is one of the most likeable candidates we met, with a self-effacing sense of humor and seemingly endless supply of folksy aphorisms. "I'm too smart to have all the answers," he told us.

He lives in east Multnomah County, which he feels has been neglected by both Metro and TriMet, the regional transportation agency, and has made his feelings known. "I'm like a barking dog at the end of the cul-de-sac," he said.

Langley aptly characterized Metro's failed effort to urbanize Damascus as "a garbage fire" and would like to see more transparency and better communication at all levels of local government.

If he were running for an entry-level elective office, or be seeking an appointment to a regional advisory panel, we'd likely support his cause.

He correctly noted that the region's growing pains require Metro to re-assess its mission. We think Peterson is well-poised to lead that effort.

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