Stewart Alan “Stu” Rasmussen died Nov. 17 2021 at the age of 73. Stu, the indefatigable engineer who became America’s first openly transgender mayor, was born in Silverton, Oregon on Sept. 9, 1948 as an only child to Albert and Nan Rasmussen. Stu, who used both he and she pronouns, was a self-described nerd from the start and thanks to a handful of local mentors and adopted parents his love for TV, radio, and all things electronic flourished.
He attended Silverton schools and Salem Tech (now Chemeketa), and after graduation went to work for Tektronix in Beaverton, Oregon. Stu spent eight years at Tektronix in a variety of job responsibilities including video engineering, video production, and marketing staff engineer. While employed at Tektronix, he and a partner purchased the business of the Palace Theatre in Silverton and ran it continuously for 46 years until 2020. For almost half a century Stu’s opening night costumes were reason enough to be first in line for a ticket.
After eight years at Tektronix Stu saw the opportunity for cable television service in the Silverton and Mount Angel area and pursued the franchises which he received. He then proceeded to defy many odds by constructing a 35-mile coaxial television plant to provide entertainment services to thousands in rural Silverton and Mount Angel. After a decade of establishing the business and turning it profitable, Stu sold the business to a larger cable television operator.
From the 1990s until the year of his death, Stu took on an array of engineering and design functions as contractor for a variety of Oregon manufacturers including Garmin, Intel, Sonic Blue as well as being an independent supplier of electronic research and development services to entrepreneurs. Stu holds one United States patent.
As a serial entrepreneur with a love for life, Stu developed and manufactured electronic devices including Bogus Trivia, a tavern trivia game, and the KissMeter, an electronic device which measures the quality of a couple’s relationship by the intensity and duration of a kiss.
Stu became involved in local politics in 1984 when first elected to the Silverton city council. He then served as mayor from 1988 to 1992 and on the Silver Falls Library Board from 1996 to 2000. Stu was back on city council from 2004-2008, and in 2008 became mayor again, beating a 16-year incumbent. Stu served as mayor until 2014. In total, Stu served 26 years in public office representing the great town of Silverton. “Silverton is where my heart is,” Stu said, “and I like to think that I’m in Silverton’s heart somewhere.”
A self-described gender anarchist, Stu made international news when Silverton elected him America’s first openly transgender mayor in 2008. When the Westboro Baptist Church protested, hundreds gathered in support of Stu and Silverton, including many religious leaders and the man who ran against Stu for mayor. Stu’s incredible life story has been featured on the podcast RadioLab, pitched as a reality series, and turned into a critically acclaimed musical that has been presented in Seattle, Minneapolis, and developed for Broadway. Stu served as a guest speaker with Gonzaga University, Reed College, Queens College in New York, and Harvard University, and has been featured in countless publications including People, Details, The Advocate, Transgender Tapestry, and many more.
Stu stands on the shoulders of transgender leaders that have come before and is proud to have played a role in influencing others to come out and be fully themselves. In the words of Stu: “Be true to yourself and never let the bastards get you down. Decide what your destination is and go there, no matter what. It may be gut wrenchingly hard at times, but you must carry on. Your happiness, your interior self, matters most. Happiness depends on you being happy in everything, your gender identity, what you do, the people you’re with and everything. You must maximize your happiness. This life is fast and short and there’s no time to wait. No matter what, make no apologies for who you are.”
Stu is survived by the love of his life, Victoria Sage. When they met at the Fifth Avenue Cinema in Portland in 1974, Victoria selling popcorn and Stu there to fix the projectors, there were actual sparks. They became an instant match made in heaven. A match that only grew stronger, through thick and thin, over their 47 years together.
Services in honor of Stu are to be determined for January 2022.