Attorney general to lead Reed College

Nigel Duara / The Associated Press
Published Apr 25, 2012 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

PORTLAND — John Kroger — graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, Mafia prosecutor, U.S. Marine and, most recently, Oregon attorney general — will have to give up his parking space.

Kroger accepted the presidency of Reed College in Portland on Tuesday, six months after declaring he would not make another run for office.

It’s a change of pace for Kroger, 46, who will transition from leading a top-down organization of hard-nosed prosecutors to a liberal arts school with a reputation for hard partying.

But back to that parking spot. The school, in its advertisement for a new leader, was up front: The president doesn’t get one.

Further, they looked for “warmth, humor, and enthusiasm,” along with a personality that’s “outgoing, gregarious, genial, and charismatic.”

They ended up with a man who trained for jungle warfare in Panama and prosecuted New York cocaine traffickers with mob ties.

When he announced he wouldn’t run for attorney general in October, Kroger cited an unspecified health condition that, while significant, is not life-threatening.

Reed College board of trustees chairman Dr. Roger Perlmutter said Kroger was forthright about his condition and the board is not concerned that it will affect his work.

“Certainly this was a matter of concern for the board, but we’re quite comfortable that the concerns which were very real in October are not of a kind that will limit him,” Perlmutter said.

The Oregon Democrat’s term as attorney general ends in January, but Kroger said in a statement on Tuesday that he will be stepping down “later this summer.” Department of Justice spokesman Tony Green said Kroger has not given notice of his last day in office.

A spokesman for Gov. John Kitzhaber said the governor is considering his options and will name a replacement after Kroger leaves office.

Kroger will collect on his $77,000 annual salary until he steps down. He succeeds Colin Diver, who is retiring after a decade as leader of the school. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Diver earned $486,507 in the 2009-2010 school year.

Kroger was a law professor at Lewis&Clark College in Portland before running for attorney general in the 2008 election. He won the law school’s teaching award three times between 2004-2008.

Kroger leaves plenty of political chips on the table as he transitions to the private school. With his high-profile background, Kroger was widely viewed as a contender for governor before the announcement of his health condition.

At a public university, Salem connections are crucial — as former University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere learned the hard way when he clashed with the Legislature over efforts to advance the state’s flagship university and was fired in November.

But at Reed College, Perlmutter said Kroger’s Salem experience was considered a “fringe benefit.” The candidates Kroger beat out came from academia, politics and the corporate world, Perlmutter said.

“If you look at the text record of what he’s contributed, it’s clear this is a thoughtful individual,” Perlmutter said.