Former Gov. Barbara Roberts was enjoying a quiet day at home this past Wednesday morning, when the phone rang.
It was a Metro councilor (Roberts prefers not to say which one) calling. Would Roberts, 74, who served as secretary of state from 1985 to 1991 and governor from 1991 to 1995 (she remains the only woman ever to hold that job in Oregon) be willing to help Metro out of a jam?
Councilors trying to fill the position Robert Liberty vacated in January had applications from two well-connected contenders. One was former 1000 Friends of Oregon director Bob Stacey, who narrowly lost the Metro Council president's race last year. The other was former six-term state lawmaker and powerful trade union lobbyist Bob Shiprack. (Five other, less-known candidates also applied for the post).
"I was told there was no consensus on the council and no majority of votes for any candidate," Roberts says.
Throughout the day, Roberts says, her phone continued to ring. "Several councilors called," she says.
Contrary to speculation circulating in the political realm, Roberts says none of the recruitment calls came from her former gubernatorial chief of staff, Patricia McCaig, who has lobbied for the Oregon Department of Transportation's efforts to build the Columbia River Crossing Bridge.
"Nobody called me except Metro councilors," Roberts says.
The CRC project has been, and will continue to be ,a major issue for Metro, which does transportation planning for the tri-county area.
A Sellwood resident, Roberts says she has been much more focused on her neighborhood's decrepit Willamette River crossing than the larger and more controversial proposed project on the Columbia River.
Roberts says she has not followed the CRC process closely enough to have a strong opinion about it, nor did sitting councilors ask her position on the bridge or any other issue.
She says if she is appointed, she will approach the CRC with an open mind.
"I'm pleased to see [proponents] are taking a fresh look at their assumptions," Roberts says. "I think the earlier plans were beyond the scope of financial reality."
If, as seems likely, the former governor is appointed to serve out Liberty's term, she does notplan to seek election in 2012. "I think I have plenty of time to accomplish a lot, and would then step aside," she says.
Roberts' autobiography will be published this fall by Oregon State University Press.