In a historic ceremony, Multnomah County on Thursday swore in the Board of Commissioners’ first Indian-American member while inaugurating a new Auditor and launching new terms for the County Chair and Sheriff.
Chair Deborah Kafoury, Sheriff Mike Reese, Auditor Jennifer McGuirk and Commissioner Susheela Jayapal took turns raising their right hand while reciting an oath administered by Multnomah County Judge Nan Waller.
Marissa Madrigal, the County’s chief operating officer, opened the ceremony with remarks that praised the four officials for taking on difficult jobs and working to make the community better.
“The people of Multnomah County have elected four remarkable individuals to office to serve and protect the common good,” Madrigal said. “As the Chair, Sheriff, Auditor and Commissioner take their oaths, they accept responsibility to govern for the benefit of the community, to always keep in mind the impact of their decisions on the people, and to stay true to the principles and values that keep our democracy thriving.”
Chair Deborah Kafoury begins second term as Multnomah County Chair
In May 2018, Multnomah County residents reelected Deborah Kafoury as County Chair. Thursday marked the beginning of her second and last term, because of term limits, as the County’s chief elected official.
As Chair, Kafoury oversees the County’s $2.1 billion budget and more than 6,000 County employees. She began serving as chair in 2014 and was first elected to the Multnomah County Commission in 2008. Before joining the Board, she served as Democratic leader in the Oregon House of Representatives, representing inner southeast Portland and parts of the County west of the Willamette River.
“I have dedicated my life to this vision of government: one where we all have a stake in each other’s success,” Chair Kafoury said after taking her oath. “My highest duty is to leave this place a little better than when I took office.”
Chair Kafoury reflected on the milestones of her time in office: doubling investments in housing and homelessness through the Joint Office of Homeless Services; capital projects including the Sellwood Bridge, Central Courthouse and new Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters; expanding the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program; and taking action to strengthen diversity and equity at the County.
“I believe in government,” Chair Kafoury said, “because I believe in our collective power to care for each other, to move our community forward, so that future generations can thrive. This is how I see my job as County Chair, and I’m excited to continue working to make that a reality for our entire community.”
Sheriff Michael Reese begins next term as Multnomah County Sheriff
When Michael Reese began as a deputy sheriff in 1990, he worked in Columbia Villa during a time when “crime was out of control and parents were afraid to let their children play outside because of the violence.”
Working with the community and social service agencies, Reese said, deputies restored safety. His key to success: designing strategies that were supported by the community, for the community.
Since being sworn in as Sheriff in August 2016, Reese has worked to build trust and respect with the communities the Sheriff’s Office serves. Preparing for his next term, Sheriff Reese championed initiatives aimed at ending the cycle of recidivism, rehabilitating people involved with the criminal justice system, and improving efficiency in his agency.
“The work in public safety is challenging, and sometimes it’s damn dangerous,” said Reese, who also has served as Portland’s police chief. “It requires having the courage to risk your personal safety to accomplish what is right and what is just. Those members in uniform have my profound gratitude for keeping the peace in our community.”
Jennifer McGuirk inaugurated as County Auditor
For the first time in nearly 10 years, Multnomah County has a new Auditor after Steve March reached his term limit.
Multnomah County residents in November 2018 elected Jennifer McGuirk, a long-time member of the County Auditor’s office, to oversee the office. The County Auditor monitors County programs and operations to ensure they’re in compliance and meeting their goals.
“With this election, voters stated they want to have a strong audit function at the County: one focused on ensuring accountable, transparent government and on auditing programs that directly affect people’s lives, their health and safety,” she said.
Looking ahead, McGuirk pledged to work for County residents by shining a light on the problems the County is facing, while affirming the good work that is already happening.
“I am accountable to County residents, today and always, because I work for you and with you,” she said. “By working together we can maintain the focus and urgency needed to bring about change.”
Commissioner Susheela Jayapal sworn in as first Indian-American elected to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners
Born in India, Commissioner Jayapal moved to the United States at age 16 for college. As the commissioner for District 2, Jayapal represents North and Northeast Portland on the County Board. She follows Loretta Smith, who reached her term limit.
“I am proud to be the first Indian-American and the second Asian-American, after [District 4 Commissioner] Lori Stegmann, to be elected to this fabulous Board of Commissioners,” she told the audience.
A former general counsel for adidas America, Jayapal said running for office was never her life-long plan. But after witnessing her community become unlivable for too many people left behind by the region’s soaring economy — noting that the rising tide wasn’t lifting all boats — she couldn’t sit idly by.
“District 2 has borne witness to this particular tide,” she said. “It has borne the effects of a booming economy, resulting in construction of expensive condos, boutiques and restaurants, and soaring real estate values. And also resulting in the displacement of those left out of that economy and in the ripping apart of long-established and closely knit communities.”
Those problems are large and complicated, but she said the County is best positioned to take action and improve residents’ lives.
“This is where we have daily direct impact on the lives of our most vulnerable residents, and where we provide the services that can put those residents on the path of housing stability, economic mobility, and community wellness,” she said.
Multnomah County residents are invited to Commissioner Jayapal's Ceremonial Swearing In at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3. The ceremony will take place on the second floor of the North Portland Library, at 512 N Killingsworth St. in Portland. A reception will immediately follow.