Three Multnomah County commissioners re-elected for a second term affirmed their commitment to the people of this community during a swearing in ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 10.
Surrounded by their families and friends, Commissioners Deborah Kafoury, Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel were sworn in by Nan Waller, Multnomah County Circuit Court presiding judge, in front of a packed board room.
Kafoury, District 1 commissioner, and Shiprack, District 3 commissioner, won re-election in the May primary. District 4 Commissioner McKeel ran unopposed in the primary.
“That all three of my colleagues won overwhelmingly in the primary last May says something about the three of them and that the community recognizes the really great work they’re doing,’’Chair Jeff Cogen said.
Each commissioner begins her second term on the five-person board. Chair Jeff Cogen and Commissioner Loretta Smith were sworn in for their four-year terms in 2011.
Cogen cited Kafoury’s work on behalf of homeless families; Shiprack’s efforts to boost evidence-based practices in the public safety system and McKeel’s work to end human trafficking and support east county.
Rose Hill, an elder with NARA, the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, opened the formal ceremony with a Native blessing, followed by a youth blessing by Maggie Cedillo. The women draped each commissioner in a blanket of deep green with yellow and black trim and white feathers representing all peoples.
Leroy BigBoy then handed each official a twist of sweet grass. He then picked up his drum and said, “I will sing a song for all the people who are past, all the people present and all the people coming in the future.”
The Grant High School Royal Blues, a 30-plus-member chamber choir, sang wearing blue formals and black tuxedos. The choir, led by director John Eisemann, sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by “She Walks in Beauty’’ based on the poem by George Gordon Byron, or Lord Byron.
Judge Waller then welcomed each commissioner to take her oath, saying that the court she represents cannot do the work unless people are working before court appearances and after to keep the community safe.
“The county is one of the best partners we have, in human trafficking, in domestic violence, this work specifically assists what is going on in our courts.” Waller said. She added that she is confident the partnership will find a solution to the decaying downtown courthouse.
“Some people say it’s the year of the Serpent, I am confident this will be the year of the Courthouse.”
Waller then administered the oath of office to Commissioners Kafoury, Shiprack and McKeel.
Afterward, Commissioner Kafoury thanked her family, including her three children who “get drug, as I did, to march in gay rights parades and serve dinner at homeless shelters. You name it, they are there.”
She also thanked people living near the Sellwood Bridge who have worked up to 10 years to make the new bridge a reality. She saved her final thanks for the 10-year-old girls who gave a tour of the county-supported family shelter where they stay because they have no home.
“Really, that is why we are all here,’’ Kafoury said.
Shiprack thanked her neighbors, friends and voters; the three generations of the Shiprack family in attendance, and her staff and colleagues.
“My colleagues are here everyday in a kind of spirit of grace that we extend to one another for the benefit of the county. We tried a little experiment four years ago: “Let’s see how this works if we get along.’’
She paused. “It’s working.”
She also paused to celebrate the board’s major accomplishments including the building of the new East County Courthouse, construction of the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center, and a permanent funding source for the Multnomah County Library system.
McKeel also thanked family, including her husband, Mike McKeel, who was taking photos from the front row. She cited accomplishments including a new library branch in Troutdale, the East County Courthouse, a transportation plan and increased services for vets and the military.
“I am looking forward to the next four years.”
The Grant Royal Blues then closed the ceremony with “I Am But a Small Voice.”
Come young citizens of the world,’’ they sang and signed. “We are one. We have one hope, we have one dream and with one voice we sing: Peace, give us peace, prosperity and love for all mankind.”