Kate Brown’s successful bid for secretary of state wasn’t the only breakthrough for LGBT Oregonians on Nov. 4. Stu Rasmussen won his election for mayor of the town of Silverton, making him the first openly transgender mayor of a U.S. city.
Rasmussen had previously served as mayor of the city (in the late eighties and early nineties) before he underwent a gender transformation in his forties.
Just Out magazine interviewed Rasmussen about his win and provided insight into his life.
Rasmussen is a 60-year-old native Silvertonian who’s been a small business owner for most of his adult life, and a public servant in his beloved hometown for going on two decades. He served two consecutive terms as Silverton’s mayor, in 1988 and 1990, when he still dressed exclusively as a male and before his “top surgery.
But a self-described gender identity crisis in the mid-90’s, coupled with a series of crippling losses in Oregon state House and Senate races – including losing to the now-notorious anti-gay legislator Marylin Shannon in a 1996 race – forced Rasmussen to withdraw from public service. He thought his career was over.
But then Stu discovered the Northwest Gender Alliance, and he gradually became more comfortable with outwardly expressing his feminine identity. As reported in this 2004 article in Just Out, Rasmussen realized then that he could express his fluid gender identity with confidence and still be accepted in small-town Silverton.
He “got bit by the public service bug again” and ran for Silverton City Council in 2004. “And I got elected,” Stu says by phone from Silverton, recounting his rise again only hours after learning of his successful mayoral bid. “Boobs and all. I tell people this country has a long and proud history of electing boobs to public office.”
But the seasoned enterpreneur and public servant has serious plans and policies in the works for his hometown once he’s inaugurated this January: studying and fixing a major dam in danger of disaster, transportation and downtown business district planning, sewer and water issues, addressing property taxes.
It’s clear that Rasmussen is, above all, a wonk’s wonk when it comes to city management. That may be one of the reasons Stu claimed victory by about eleven percentage points (that’s 470-odd votes in Silverton) over eight-term incumbent Ken Hector in the mayoral race.