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Longtime state senator from Estacada, Sandy remains active in the public policy arena

Rick Metsger may no longer be a member of the Oregon legislature, but he can still be found roaming the halls of the state capitol in Salem while that body is in session.

It’s nothing new for Metsger, who represented Estacada and Sandy in the senate from 1999 to 2011.

Metsger’s local ties run deep. His father was the postmaster in Sandy, where he was raised. His grandparents had property on Wildcat Mountain, he lived in Welches for 25 years and still considers the area home.

“My family was known for a long time in the area,” Metsger said. “It’s always been my home territory.”

Well before his foray into politics, Metsger made a name for himself as a sports director and investigative reporter at Portland television station KOIN. He started that stint in 1977 and took on some duties at KXL radio in 1983.

In 1992, Metsger ended his stint in broadcast journalism. His decision came as changes to the industry began shrinking newsrooms all over the nation.

Metsger was reluctant to move to another media market, as he was living in Welches and wanted to stay there. So he decided to start a public relations company instead.

During that time, Metsger joined the board of directors for a credit union and ended up testifying before a committee in the 1997 legislative session. It was soon suggested that he run for the state senate, and Metsger threw his hat in the ring. He campaign aggressively throughout Estacada and Sandy, walking the streets and knocking on doors to contact voters directly.

Metsger had been in the state senate for nearly a decade when he decided to run for secretary of state in the May 2008 primary election. His bid came up short, as Kate Brown ultimately went on to win both that Democratic primary and the general election races for that office.

An unexpected opening for another statewide office came up two years later, when Treasurer Ben Westlund died days before the filing deadline. Metsger filed to run for that position, but then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed Multnomah County Commission chairman Ted Wheeler as treasurer.

By then, Metsger had already opted against seeking another term in the senate. He didn’t campaign as vigorously in the primary for the treasurer’s race as he did for secretary of state. Metsger did, however, still manage to top Wheeler in Estacada and Sandy.

Although his last term in the senate expired in January 2011, Metsger continues to be involved in the public policy arena. His public relations firm has clients in Portland and Seattle from such sectors as credit unions and construction groups, and he recently met with Gov. John Kitzhaber to discuss issues important to those industries.

In a way, Metsger has come full circle, as he still works on many of the same issues he did while serving in the Legislature. It takes a different form, though, one that he refers to as “moving public policy through public opinion.”

Many of the legislators Metsger once worked with have since retired or been voted out of office. Of the several senators he served with, only three are still in that chamber. One is Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem, the longest-serving senate president in Oregon’s history, and another is Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day. As such, Metsger has more institutional knowledge about the Legislature than most of the elected representatives now serving in it.

Metsger said he has no plans to get back into elected politics, but will continue discussing policy through the media about issues that are critical to his clients. He fondly remembers his time in Estacada, and the events he held at the community center, and has regular talks with the people who are representing the area in the Legislature.

These days, Metsger lives in Salem, a short walk from the capitol building. But he still has property in Welches and a big place in his heart for Estacada, Sandy and the people in those towns.

“I really enjoyed the whole Estacada and Sandy area,” he said. “Those were all really great memories.”

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