Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) is a 22 member staff of professional employees with broad duties and skill-sets. Each team member has a fascinating story, and unique attributes that help make AOC the success it is today. Here’s an opportunity to meet a member of your AOC team.

Meet AOC Legal Counsel, Rob Bovett

Rob Bovett joined the AOC family in January 2014 as Legal Counsel. A veteran in public policy legal matters facing counties, Rob’s primary focus is advocating for Oregon Counties in the Capitol and more specifically, on matters relating to drug policy, elections, home rule, labor and employment, ocean and coastal policy, public contracting, public meetings and records, renewable energy, and torts. His personable attitude and passion for counties have been a key asset for AOC. In addition to his policy efforts, Rob is an expert negotiator and weighs the law carefully and considerately, representing the board of directors on a broad array of needs whether it be related to contract negotiation, personnel matters, budgeting, or general advice.  

Above and beyond the services he provides for AOC, Rob serves counties on the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC), the Oregon Governor’s Opioid Epidemic Task Force, the Stanford Network on Addiction Policy (SNAP), the Oregon Complete Count Committee, and the Oregon Public Records Advisory Council (PRAC).

Prior to his work at AOC, Rob previously served as the elected District Attorney (2009-2014) and appointed Assistant County Counsel (1992-2009) for Lincoln County, Oregon. Rob also has a wealth of knowledge on policy and political process, having previously worked as legislative counsel in the Legislature.

Rob received his Juris Doctorate degree from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Political Science from the University of La Verne.

AOC Legal Department

The Legal Department of the AOC consists of one full-time Legal Counsel, Rob Bovett, whose time is divided between general counsel and policy services. Rob currently serves four of AOC’s affiliate/associate members, each of whom pays a monthly fee to AOC for those services:

  •  Community Renewable Energy Association (CREA)
  •  Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC)
  •  Oregon Association of County Engineers and Surveyors (OACES)
  •  Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA)

General counsel services include, but are not limited to, contracts, intergovernmental agreements, personnel issues, internal policies, collective bargaining, litigation, supervision of legal externs, presentations on a variety of topics, and anything else that comes up.

Policy services include, but are not limited to, staffing the AOC Governance Steering Committee, and work in a wide variety of policy areas for all clients.

Why Rob Loves AOC

“The best governments – those that best represent the interests of the people – are those that are closest to the people. Oregon counties fit that bill.

Oregon is a rather unique model in the United States when it comes to the provision of core public services, such as public health and safety.  Unlike states where county governments provide only those specific services delegated to them by the state legislature, or states where county government does not even exist, Oregon has long relied heavily on counties to be a major provider of core public services to all Oregonians.  Further, Oregon is marked by having arguably the strongest county home rule powers in the Nation. This effectively means that, unlike states where counties have to ask themselves the question ‘show me where I can’ in state law before taking action on a matter of local concern, in Oregon we ask the opposite question, namely ‘show me where I can’t.’

Oregon counties are not only key providers of core public services in Oregon, but have inherent power to act on all matters of local concern, unless preempted by state law.

The Association of Oregon Counties  was formed in 1906 to represent the interests of Oregon counties in the state legislature, and in the courts. The work of AOC has proven both interesting and challenging. Because of the nature of Oregon county government, as described above, AOC finds itself engaged, in one way or another, with a majority of bills introduced in the Oregon legislature.  his often provides great opportunities to deliver new and innovative public services. On the flip side, it also means that AOC is a busy place.

I love AOC because there is no better place to advocate for the Oregon county governments that I have known and loved for my entire legal career.”

 What Interests Rob in the Government and the Legislative Process 

“During law school I worked at Legislative Counsel (LC), crafting legislation and writing legal opinions for legislators. One of my assigned areas was local government. I thoroughly enjoyed the work and was fascinated by the legislative process. I was offered a permanent position at LC, but decided I wanted to do trial work, as well as policy. So I accepted a job with Lincoln County Counsel, and remained there for sixteen years.  During that time, the Lincoln County Commissioners were satisfied enough with my work that they lent me out to numerous statewide county associations for the purpose of crafting and lobbying legislation for the benefit of all Oregon counties. It was, undoubtedly, the most fulfilling part of my county counsel work. That ultimately led to being hired by AOC.”

AOC’s Future

When asked what Rob sees in AOCs future, Rob commented:

“I believe that AOC is at a critical crossroad. AOC has recently come through a trial by fire, surviving a significant fiscal crisis. In the end, AOC is a leaner, but more transparent, organization. The present challenges are multiple:

  •  Lack of adequate legislative awareness of what Oregon counties do

 Unprecedented recent turn-over of Oregon legislators, coupled with the trend toward political polarization that has now fully arrived in the Oregon legislature, has resulted in many legislators that not only fail to fully comprehend the public services that counties provide, but tend to treat counties as just another special interest, instead of what Oregon counties really are:  The most important key partner of the State in providing core public services to all Oregonians.

  •  A new policy environment that is transactional

  Although it was a bit delayed in Oregon, the national trend of replacing centrists (commonly known as being “primaried”) has fully arrived in Oregon. This means that navigating tough issues, and finding a middle ground, is more challenging. Coupled together with long agendas, this has converted the Oregon Legislature into a body that behaves in a mostly transactional fashion. Here is what I mean by that: in the past, Oregon legislative sessions typically started heavy on policy, then ended heavy on politics, but with big agendas and political polarization, politics and long agendas have left little time or space for policy conversations.

However, in the face of these two challenges, AOC can help pave the way forward. AOC has long worked hard to avoid engaging in divisive politics. Indeed, avoiding divisive issues is baked into the AOC Bylaws. AOC members are spread all across the political spectrum – yet consistently work collaboratively to solve problems and promote the delivery of quality public services. Now isn’t that refreshing! AOC can and should continue to provide strong leadership for the benefit of all Oregonians. AOC is needed now more than ever.”

Outside of AOC

Rob is married to Carol Ann Bovett. They live in South Salem, have three adult children, one granddaughter, and a large extended family. Rob’s hobbies include woodworking, automotive restoration, guitar design and construction, and home improvements.

Other Fun Facts

Rob is known for his work in drug policy over the past few decades at national, state, and local levels. He has created numerous state and local initiatives that provide evidence-based solutions to problems caused by substance abuse and behavioral health issues, such as drug court, HOPE, mental health court, and other diversionary programs. He has authored many opinion pieces on drug policy, including those published by The Oregonian and The New York Times, and has appeared on numerous programs, such as Good Morning America, National Public Radio, and PBS NewsHour and FRONTLINE. He is the author or co-author of most of Oregon’s drug laws.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate