Dozens of Portlanders crammed into city council chambers this morning hoping to catch a glimpse of history being made with the swearing in of Jo Ann Hardesty, the first Black woman to serve on Portland City Council.
Hardesty, a former state representative, NAACP chapter president, and community organizer, replaces former Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who served on the council for 20 years.
Many attendees dressed up for the occasion and some brought their children along to witness the brief, yet monumental, event. Longtime community activists who've worked closely with Hardesty—like Right 2 Survive's Ibrahim Mubarak, Mental Health Association of Portland's Jason Renaud, minority-owned business advocate James Posey.
"This is a very historic day," said Posey. "Now, the work really begins."
Not only is Hardesty the first African American woman to sit on council, but her appointment makes the five-member council majority female for the first time in history.
Hardesty was sworn in by Adrienne Nelson, the first African American judge for the Oregon Supreme Court. Before joining her new colleagues at the council dais, Hardesty addressed the crowded room.
"What I see all around me is a city filled of people with hope. And I don't take that hope lightly," she said. "I look forward to what we're able to do together as Portlanders."
Hardesty is the third African American commissioner to sit on Portland City Council. The last commissioner, Dick Bogel, stepped down 27 years ago. Hardesty starts her term as the commissioner in charge of the Portland Fire Bureau, Bureau of Emergency Communications, Bureau of Emergency Management, and the Fire and Police Disability & Retirement Fund.
More than a dozen members of the Portland Fire Department, including Chief Mike Meyers, attended the morning event, along with Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw. Before kicking off her inaugural council meeting, Mayor Ted Wheeler noted the day's significance.
This is the first time in the history of the city that there has been a majority of women on city council. This is the first time that a woman of color has been elected to city council," Wheeler said. "I know Jo Ann Hardesty to be a tireless leader and effective advocate. Commissioner Hardesty, I welcome you to the dais."
Wheeler added that the day's council agenda was the shortest he's ever seen. No significant votes were passed. However, Commissioner Amanda Fritz elected Commissioner Chloe Eudaly to be the council president—a rotating role that makes Eudaly the second in command if Wheeler is absent.
Hardesty will hold a public swearing-in celebration this evening at 6 pm at Portland City Hall. And then, she said, the work begins.
"I want to remind you that this is only day one. It doesn't mean that after the party today you get to go home. You need to come back to this chamber," Hardesty said. "Let's make sure we keep this chamber looking like the city of Portland, keep coming back, keep making sure your voice is being heard. Because that's why you elected me."