By Erin Rook, Source Weekly
As anyone who followed his campaign likely knows, Casey Roats has deep roots in the local community. As we sit in the McMenamins pub, he explains that he actually attended the Old St. Francis School for part of high school, and served as an altar boy at the nearby Catholic church.
“This was the principal’s office,” he says, pointing across the room filled with lunch patrons. Roats says that, despite his time spent in the hot seat during the Council race, he doesn’t recall visiting the principal’s office as a youngster. Instead, he was busy with Future Farmers of America (serving as the state vice president), participating on speech team and competing in rodeos as a team roper.
It was at St. Francis, he explains, that he got his first taste of economic diversity, studying alongside students from a wide range of backgrounds.
“It was a melting pot,” Roats says, recalling making friends across class spectrums.
His grandparents were among the lumber industry folks who once predominated Bend. But they didn’t work for one of the big outfits. Instead, he explains, they were what people called “gyppo loggers,” meaning that they ran their own modest logging company with a handful of employees.
They also founded a small water utility company—Roats Water Systems. The operation was just big enough to support his parents’ family, Casey says, and it has had sufficient recent growth to take the younger Roats under its employ as well. He makes clear that the family business isn’t making anyone rich, and points out that most of the water utility’s customers are at or below the median wage.
Still, his long history in the community and business ownership contributes to the oft-repeated perception that Roats is a “good ol’ boy.”
But it’s a perception he contests. Roats describes himself as “glorified blue collar,” noting that most days, he wears Carhartt pants and boots while driving his 1984 work pickup. Yes, he belongs to a golf and country club, but only because it offers a cheaper gym membership than the Bend Park & Rec-run Juniper Swim and Fitness. He doesn’t play golf, but he does occasionally take a trip to Arizona to relive his team roping days with friends.
Roats may be a country mouse, but he’s spent some time in the city. Specifically, in the nation’s capital as an intern for recently re-elected Rep. Greg Walden, where Roats apparently made quite the impression. At the end of his internship in 2002, Walden entered a glowing tribute to Roats into the record, calling him “a son of the American west” who “exudes competence” and “ranks among the finest [interns] ever to serve in my congressional office.”
Though Roats cut short his college education to help out with the family business, he’s now getting a real life education in the subjects he once studied—business management and politics.