In January, public officials elected in November are sworn into service. The new year brings new leaders. We are lucky with our leadership at Metro, the regional government focused on smart urban development and good quality of life in 23 cities and three counties.
At a party at Edgefield this month, I got to celebrate Shirley Craddick and her three terms of service representing East County at Metro. On January 3, I'll get to celebrate Ashton Simpson as he takes her seat in a swearing-in ceremony at the East Portland Community Center.
Shirley and Ashton appeared before the Fairview City Council this month, to say goodbye and hello. What a joyful sight to see them sitting side by side, and listen about past work and future plans. With 12 years of service, Shirley has left a big mark. During her tenure, she has supported and led on dozens of parks and trails projects, including major improvements to Blue Lake Regional Park and Oxbow Regional Park. She was a key proponent of TriMet's FX Line, a frequent express bus connecting Portland and Gresham, and Metro's 2018 and 2020 housing measures to build affordable apartments, provide emergency rental assistance, and get people off the streets and into housing by funding programs like Move-In Multnomah.
Ashton Simpson ran for Shirley's seat, and won. I was honored to support his campaign every step of the way. Ashton has the right policy priorities - equity in housing, economic opportunity, and access to nature. Most importantly, he has the right motivation. Like Shirley, Ashton's into policy, not politics. He wants to help people, not grow power. Like Shirley, he's a planning nerd. Safe streets are his passion, as are walkable neighborhoods and getting outside. He is eager to create more affordable housing - from experience. When he moved from Texas to Oregon in 2015, he couldn't afford a place to live; Someone put him up until he got on his feet. This experience - as well as his experience as a Black man, a father, an Air Force veteran, a construction worker, and a nonprofit executive - will serve us well. Ashton has worked in every sector, with people of all ages, colors, and politics. He's real. He is also kind, thoughtful, and accessible. He'll take your calls - and likely invite you on a walk, too. It's how he likes to take his meetings if he can.
This succession, from retired healthcare leader to a rising nonprofit leader, from a white woman to a Black man, from one policy nerd to another, from one public servant to another, is a warm and welcome one and a reason to look forward to 2023.
Thank you, Shirley. Welcome, Ashton.