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Silverton’s Stu Rasmussen, the nation’s first openly transgender mayor, dies

Stu Rasmussen1
Chris Lehman
In this 2012 photo, Rasmussen stands in front of the movie theater he co-owned in downtown Silverton.

Stu Rasmussen, who was elected by residents of Silverton as the nation’s first openly transgender mayor in 2008, has died.

The Statesman Journal reports Rasmussen passed away last week at the age of 73 after battling prostate cancer.

After the historic election victory in 2008, Rasmussen said gender identity wasn’t really an issue in the race.

“It has been a very positive experience for me," Rasmussen told KLCC. "The town has embraced me as their native son. And I think the election results kind of show that.”

Stu Rasmussen2
Chris Lehman
Stu Rasmussen could often be found filling out crossword puzzles at downtown Silverton coffee shops.

Later, after a hate group protested Rasmussen’s victory, a large number of Silverton residents held a counter-protest on behalf of their new mayor, with some men wearing dresses to show their support. The incident was included in a musical that profiled Rasmussen’s life called “Stu for Silverton,” which debuted in Seattle in 2013.

In a 2013 interview with KLCC, Rasmussen grew emotional when telling the story of the counter-protest.

"I still tear up when I recall these events," said Rasmussen. "It's just an amazing town and an amazing response. I love it here."

In additional to serving several terms as mayor and on city council, Rasmussen co-owned a single-screen movie theater in downtown Silverton.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”