Robert E. Stacey, a lion of Oregon’s groundbreaking land use principles who served for nearly 9 years on the Metro Council, died Sept. 8 at his home in Southeast Portland. He was 72.
Stacey’s fingerprints can be seen all over Oregon, from the wheat fields of Wasco County to the transit lines of downtown Portland. He grew up in East Portland, graduated from Reed College, lived for years in inner southeast’s Richmond neighborhood, and served twice as Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s chief of staff in Washington.
In 2010, while serving as executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, he ran for Metro Council President, losing by 0.25% – 1,003 votes out of 397,033 cast – to Tom Hughes. In 2012, he won election to represent District 6, most of the southern City of Portland, and he was most recently re-elected in 2020.
Bob Stacey left a powerful impact during his tenure on the Metro Council and on Oregon's land use system. He stepped down from his role in October 2021, leaving behind a legacy of change and growth.
Read more about Bob Stacey’s history
“Bob is all of the things you hate in a competitor and love in a colleague,” Hughes said last year, when Stacey announced his retirement from the Metro Council. “He is wicked smart, articulate, and passionate about finding ways of doing the right thing.”
Stacey died after nearly a decade battling the effects of meningioma, a recurring tumor that grew on the tissue that surrounded his brain. In 2013, he had surgery to remove a tumor from his meninges, and Stacey returned to council meetings just weeks after the operation. But by 2021, the tumor had returned, and affected the veteran councilor enough that he felt that he had to resign. He stepped down from the council on Sept. 30, 2021.
For his final two years on the Metro Council, he served with Council President Lynn Peterson, whom he mentored at 1000 Friends.
"Bob Stacey’s contributions to the Oregon we know and love today are immeasurable. Bob never ran out of creative ideas on how to protect Oregon’s communities, farms and forests, and how to connect them all together, ensuring that we were woven together as a fabric of this wonderful state,” Peterson said. “He was a fearless fighter, standing up to bullies big and small, from huge corporate developers to Ma Sheela and the Rajneeshees, who sought to turn over Oregon’s iconic landscape for their own individual profit and purpose.”
Peterson lauded Stacey’s commitment to the Portland region.
“In the end, he devoted himself to public service, losing the Metro Council presidency by a hair’s breadth in 2010 and serving with honor as the District 6 representative on the Council from 2013 to 2021. Bob was a mentor, a friend, a caring husband and a loving father and grandfather. Bob’s work, his wit, his spirit and his love of Oregon leave a permanent legacy on this state we all love so much.”
Stacey was one of the first hires at 1000 Friends, formed to bolster the late Gov. Tom McCall’s vision of an Oregon land use system that protected farms and forests, and prevented endless sprawl from the suburbs to the sea and from Capitol Hill to Cottage Grove. He was the target of a poisoning attempt from the Rajneeshees, after they tried to thwart Oregon land use laws and build a city in the rolling hills of the Columbia Plateau.
He led Portland’s planning bureau from 1989 to 1993. He was an executive at TriMet during the planning of the MAX Yellow and Red lines. TriMet and the Portland Bureau of Transportation honored Stacey by naming a pedestrian bridge over the MAX Orange Line for him in 2021.
Stacey served as Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s chief of staff, a tenure that the 25-year congressman recalled on the U.S. House of Representatives floor last year.
In a statement Thursday night, Blumenauer called Stacey a fierce defender of Oregon’s land use system.
“Oregon just lost the most important person that most people never heard of,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “In every capacity – professional, personal, friend and family man – he set the gold standard. He will be missed but his impact on our community and our state will continue for generations.”
Stacey is survived by his wife of 51 years, Adrienne, and his daughters Amanda and Hesper and two grandchildren. Services and recognition of Stacey’s contributions to Oregon will be announced at a later time.