10. A Darkened Victory
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167 chapter 10 A Darkened Victory In the place where you now are, there is much to be observed … But what will you do to keep away the black dog that worries you at home? … The great direction which Burton has left to men disordered like you, is this, Be not solitary; be not idle: which I would thus modify;—If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle. —James Boswell (1740-1795), The Life of Samuel Johnson vol. 3, p. 414, October 27, 1779 Coming off the 1970 campaign thrashing by Tom McCall in their governor’s race rematch, Bob Straub was at a curious moment in his career. He would still be state treasurer for two more years, but his political momentum was gone and the question loomed of where to go from there. He felt some wistfulness about the result, but also some freedom. After serving a four-year term as county commissioner, Straub had been campaigning for office every two years starting in 1958—once for state senator, once for state Democratic Party chairman (by vote of county party officials), once for Congress in the 4th District, two times for treasurer and twice for governor. Term limited by the Oregon Constitution against a third run for state treasurer and with no need to gear up for his next race in 1972, Bob felt a strange relief. His rivalry with McCall was officially over—settled in Tom’s favor—and Bob only interacted politically with the governor as a member of the State Land Board, where they were mostly in agreement. The state treasurer’s duties had been diminished by the elimination of the board of control—Ed Westerdahl’s proudest legislative accomplishment as McCall’s chief of staff—during the 1969 legislative session.1 Control of state institutions was now centralized in the governor’s office. Straub was thus deprived of the official duty of making surprise visits to the state correctional facilities, mental hospitals, and the schools for the disabled, which he had done regularly as a board of control member. Any opinions he had about running those institutions were now just that. Straub did not oppose this centralization of authority to the governor’s office, believing, as many did, that it would lead to great efficiency. “He kind of rolled with the punches on that issue and didn’t make a fuss about it,” recalls his personal secretary, Barbara Hanneman, but he missed having that direct engagement with state institutions and their policy decisions.2 168 Standing at the Water’s Edge However, Straub was left with one project that interested him a great deal: institutionalizing the new Oregon Investment Council, the first public investment system in the nation to use private firms as contractors to invest public monies in equities, including the stock market. It became clear early on that a key ally for the state treasurer was fellow investment council board member Roger Meier, an heir to the Meier & Frank department store chain, which his family had sold to the May Corporation of St. Louis a few years earlier. The diminutive, sophisticated Meier could not have appeared more different than the lanky, unrefined Straub, but they shared a strong business sense and a sound, conservative philosophy toward investment. Meier, an arch-Republican, remembers greatly respecting the Democrat Straub as “an excellent businessman and a very good investor” and that they “had a wonderful relationship that I value highly in memory.”3 Meier had been appointed by Governor McCall to serve on the board of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) in 1970, and, after a vacancy opened up later that year, he became one of the two PERS representatives on the Oregon Investment Council. Meier and Straub were both excited about doing all they could to improve the financial standing of their “customers,” Oregon state employee pensioners and the state’s disabled workers. With Straub taking the lead, they developed the early principles guiding the investment council, and had ”the privilege and benefit of listening to the advice of some of the best investors in the world.” Meier continued on the council as chair when Straub left office, serving until 1985, in tandem with Straub’s initial staff hire, Jim George, whose conscientious work, good investment judgment, and charming personality proved invaluable.4 George continued to serve after Meier left, until his retirement in 1992. During this time, the investment council made exceedingly wise choices with its money...


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