The Multnomah County Commission opened the New Year by seating its first Indian-American member.
Born in India, the former general counsel for adidas America, Susheela Jayapal said running for office was never her life-long plan. But after witnessing her Portland 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.
Jayapal succeeds Loretta Smith to represent north and northeast Portland on the five-member governing board from District 2. Smith was prevented by term limits for running for re-election and then lost an election for City Council against Jo Ann Hardesty in a historic contest between two black candidates.
Jayapal enters office with issues of homelessness and gentrification dominating the landscape, matters she said are large and complicated, but ones she says the county is best positioned to take action on and improve residents’ lives.
“District 2 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,” she said. “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.”