The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Loretta Smith Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

January 21, 2015


“The Roots of a Public Servant”  January 21, 2015  Location: Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Office, Portland, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Smith discusses her upbringing in Michigan, her school experience growing up, her motivations for attending college, and her family ties in Oregon that led to her enrolling at Oregon State University.

From there Smith recounts her initial impressions of the OSU campus, her close involvement with the school's Educational Opportunities Program, and a negative encounter that she had with an early dorm roommate whose family was not comfortable with the idea of their daughter living with an African American. She likewise recalls her extracurricular and social activities while at OSU, including her participation in theater productions and her love of soap operas and Beaver football. She also describes her academic work while an undergraduate, including her shift in majors from Political Science to Broadcast Communications, her involvement with KBVR television and radio, and her memories of spending a term in London on a student exchange.

The session then changes its focus to Smith's life after OSU. In particular, she notes the means by which she came to work in the office of Ron Wyden, a Congressional representative based in Portland, and reflects on the changes in responsibilities that ensued over a period of twenty-one years working as a member of his staff. She also reflects on the birth of her son and the struggles involved with raising him as a single mother.

The final portion of the interview is devoted to Smith's activities in elected office. She recalls her decision to run for election to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, the platform on which she campaigned, the dynamics inherent to being a woman in politics, and the emphasis that she places on mentoring other young women. The session concludes with a discussion of Smith's broader community involvement and a few final thoughts on the impact that OSU made on her life.