In Portland, anyone can be a leader. While some were appointed by voters, many of the people guiding city policymaking and popular movements aren’t elected officials (and have no interest in becoming one). From lawyers to anti-fascists to millionaires, these unelected leaders play an integral role in shaping Portland’s future.
The Researcher: Marisa Zapata
Marisa Zapata uses knowledge and data to understand and fight Portland’s homelessness epidemic. Zapata, an Urban Studies professor at Portland State University (PSU), also directs the university’s new Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative, a program tasked with studying the causes and effects of homelessness in the metro region. Her data has the potential to substantially shift the way we talk—and what we do—about homelessness in Portland.
The Civil Rights Leader: E.D. Mondainé
Portland’s NAACP President E.D. Mondainé isn’t afraid of a fight. A leader in the campaign to create a Portland clean energy fund to support Black-owned businesses and a critic of the city’s plan to condemn earthquake-unsafe buildings (many of which are owned by Black Portlanders), Mondainé has used his platform to educate City Council on unintentionally racist policies and decry the creeping influence of white supremacy. They’re paying attention.
The Developer: Tim Boyle
There are many ways that Tim Boyle, the wealthy CEO of Columbia Sportswear, can choose to spend his money. But this past year, he decided to put a significant chunk of it—$3 million—toward the city’s new shelter and support center for homeless Portlanders. Some say his contribution to the River District Navigation Center was penance for his 2017 attempt to boot the homeless off of the sidewalk surrounding his business downtown. Whatever the motive, the program will help steer hundreds of houseless Portlanders into permanent housing.
The Cop: Daryl Turner
Daryl Turner has one job: to defend the needs of Portland Police Bureau’s rank-and-file officers. He does it remarkably well. As the president of the bureau’s largest police union, the Portland Police Association (PPA), Turner consistently challenges city leadership over budget cuts and criticisms of police misconduct. With strong support from moderate and conservative Portlanders, Turner has the ear of city officials—much to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s chagrin. Turner’s quote-worthy critiques of how the city has dealt with homelessness and protests are frequently repeated by members of the public during city meetings.
The Copwatcher: Dan Handelman
Dan Handelman is a walking encyclopedia of law enforcement in Portland. The founder of Portland Copwatch has devoted decades to attending nearly every city meeting related to police work—from the thrilling to the mundane—and has earned unparalleled understanding of how Portland policing has changed over the years. His sharp eye has added transparency to closed-door police work, brought justice to victims of police misconduct, and empowered politicians to push back on demands from the police union.
The Homeless Advocate: Kaia Sand
Street Roots Director Kaia Sand knows that the city can’t truly help homeless Portlanders until lawmakers see them as human beings. For Sand, that means pitching a massive plan to overhaul the city’s 911 system that would keep cops from responding to low-level calls involving homeless people—and instead sending mental health experts or social workers to the scene. The city has since funded a pilot program for the plan, and Sand has made sure homeless locals will be key advisors as it develops.
The Climate Change Fighter: Tony Jordan
Tony Jordan envisions a world without towering parking structures, mandatory parking spaces for new homes, and preventable traffic fatalities. By advocating for parking reforms and encouraging non-car forms of transportation, Jordan fights a “war on cars,” and his focus on decreasing the city’s dependency on fossil fuels helps us all breathe a little easier.
The Lawyer: Juan Chavez
Juan Chavez, an attorney with the Oregon Justice Resource Center, is leading the legal fight against right-wing extremism in Portland. Long before the Portland police arrested far-right members of Patriot Prayer for a May Day street fight, Chavez sued the Vancouver, Washington group on behalf of Cider Riot—the business impacted most by the clash. He’s also filed legal documents to keep the Proud Boys—avowed “western chauvinists”—from returning to Portland. Chavez’s use of the courts to hold these groups accountable has brought hope to the many Portlanders who have been disappointed by the city’s response.
The Educator: Shanice Clarke
Shanice Clarke is shaking up Portland’s education system from the inside. After a failed but inspired run for Portland Public Schools’ (PPS) board earlier this year, Clarke was hired by PPS to be its director of community engagement. An activist, educator, and co-founder of PSU’s Pan-African Resource Center, Clarke’s drive to support disadvantaged communities will lead PPS into a more equitable future.
The Youth Advocate: Samantha Gladu
Samantha Gladu is handing the megaphone to tomorrow’s leaders. As the director of Next Up (formerly the Bus Project), a nonprofit that empowers and lobbies for youth at the local and state level, Gladu is used to being the only adult in the room, and Oregon benefits from her know-how. From helping teens push state legislators to lower the voting age or tighten gun control laws to holding democracy workshops for civically-minded youth, Gladu hustles to help the next generation do good.
The Anti-Fascist: Effie Baum
Effie Baum wants to make Portland protests fun again. As an “everyday anti-fascist,” Baum has worked tirelessly as a member of the decentralized activism group Popular Mobilization (AKA PopMob) to coordinate the city’s various left-wing groups to create a unified front—one that’s ready, at any time and any place, to oppose the far right. At the same time, Baum has introduced humor, costumes, music, and (cement-free!) milkshakes to counterprotests, with hopes of out-weirding the far right. It’s working.