Tom Potter is the current mayor of Portland, Oregon, finishing his first and only term in office.
Before he was mayor, Tom Potter was a long time Portland police officer, rising through the ranks to become police chief under legendary mayor Bud Clark. When he ran for mayor in 2004, he had spent a decade away from public office, but still managed to quickly draw together support. The reasons for his election have a lot to do with Portland politics. Portland is a very liberal city, and anyone running for mayor of Portland is going to be, by most standards, very liberal. The difference is perhaps more about attitude and image than it is about policy. Tom Potter had been mayor under Bud Clark, an eccentric tavern owner who had been succeeded by Vera Katz, who had a more polished, professional demeanor. Vera Katz was also liberal, but her core constituency was more of the wine and cheese crowd than the blue collar appeal of Bud Clark. After three terms of Katz, there were many voters who wanted a change. When the front runner in the race became Jim Franchesconi, who raised an unprecedented one million in campaign contributions for the mayoral race, the scrappy Tom Potter, who limited contributions to 100 dollars, quickly became the favorite of many, especially the recent influx of bike-riding, PBR-drinking 20somethings. There probably wouldn't have too many policy differences between Potter and Francesconi, but the idea of the police chief/ACLU member running on small contributions was powerful. In a come-from-behind election, Potter defeated Francesconi handily.
While it would be good to continue this political fairy tale by talking about the incredible acts that followed, the truth is Potter has done little as mayor. I follow local politics pretty closely, and the biggest issue I can remember out of Potter's term is his unsuccessful attempt to reform Portland city council's executive structure. This entire attempt was rather byzantine and seemed to be more concerned with intragroup politics than dealing with the problems pressing on Portlanders the most. He also made some symbolic gestures, such as riding in critical mass, but he did not accomplish anything major during his term of mayor. He decided not to run again, and is currently a lame duck, with the next mayor being Sam Adams, the former chief-of-staff to Vera Katz and a definite insider.
I am only one voter, although I think I speak for quite a few other Portlanders. Tom Potter, despite the fact that he had limited success as a mayor, is still a person I hold a favorable opinion of. It might not make sense, but I hold him to be the inverse of Vera Katz, who accomplished many things, but who I could never quite find myself supporting. Politics, administration, and leadership are three different things, and not everyone can do them as well as might be hoped. But Tom Potter made a good effort, and for that will be remembered well by myself and others.