The idea that a husband-wife team is playing a big role in the overhaul of the state’s education system is appealing to many observers. With such a huge project, a bit of education pillow talk couldn’t hurt.
“Their expertise is why they were chosen,” notes Rep. Tim Freeman (R-Roseburg). “But I think it’s an added benefit that they’re husband and wife. You get a lot of value-added time on that issue that you wouldn’t get if they weren’t husband and wife. But outside of that, they’re both the right people for the job.”
The Saxtons, both 57 and living in Southeast Portland, have been a team since college days at Willamette University, where they met in a sophomore political science class. Ron admits that Lynne saw the potential for a partnership long before it crossed his mind. Indeed, he had no inkling that his exuberant classmate had already identified him as her future husband.
Lynne recalls, “I looked out my window one day at Willamette and told my roommate, ‘See that guy over there? That’s who I’m gonna marry!’” But that seemed unlikely. For starters, she was dating someone else. Furthermore, she was totally dedicated to sorority and student life. Ron, then state chairman of OSPIRG, a consumer advocacy group, had his mind on his own future.
But one year after their 1976 graduation, they were engaged. A year later, they married and made their first home in Charlottesville, Va., where Ron was in his final year at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Back in Oregon, they had one son, Andrew, now 29 and product marketing manager at FLIR Systems in Portland. Ron joined the Portland law firm of Ater Wynne and in 1997 was elected to the Portland School Board. He served as the board’s chair from 1998 to 2000.
In 2002, he ran for a statewide office for the first time, throwing his hat in the ring to be the Republican candidate for governor. His run was cut short when he lost the primary to Kevin Mannix, who six months later lost the governor’s race to Ted Kulongoski.
But Lynne in particular still values the lessons of the brief campaign. She served as her husband’s field director. In the process, she gained a new appreciation of his strengths, while learning from Ron approaches to problem solving that she now emulates.
“It was great because I’d never seen him in action before,” she says. “I’d never seen him managing people and crises and decisions and such. It didn’t matter how bad things got. He would always be able to convene a team, move from A to B, have a healthy debate, with no one screaming, and get there.”
At the same time, Ron praises Lynne’s own style of tackling issues. “People who know me say I do best at solving problems,” he says. “She does a better job of laying out a vision that’s inspiring, as opposed to just, ‘Here’s a solution.’”