The former chief of staff for Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington is the new executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance.
Elizabeth Mazzara Myers was announced as the new head of the economic alliance in a press release on Aug. 9.
"We are excited about this next chapter for WEA," said board president Randy Ealy in the press release. "Elizabeth's deep experience bodes well for leading the organization, continuing our missions as a convener and a respected voice for business."
Mazzara Myers comes to the position after the former executive director, Gail Greenman, left for a job in the Biden administration. Greenman was tapped to serve as state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Agency in Oregon.
Mazzara Myers previously served as the chief of staff to Harrington, leaving under a cloud of controversy after she threatened to sue the county last year. She alleged bullying by Harrington and a failure by the county administration to properly address her workplace concerns.
The county settled with Mazzara Myers for $80,000 to avoid a lawsuit and the agreement stipulates that neither party can "make any negative statements" regarding the other.
As such, Mazzara Myers declined to say much about her departure, only that it didn't stop her from working and that she's proud of the work she did at the county.
"I think the work I did there speaks for itself, much more strongly than my separation of employment," she said.
In particular, Mazzara Myers said she was part of the team that pushed for Washington County's new equity resolution, which created more of a framework in county policies to engage with underrepresented communities and to center equity in the county's decision-making.
While she took about a month off following her resignation, Mazzara Myers says she has continued running her own consulting firm since then.
The legal action Mazzara Myers took against the county resulted in a larger investigation into Harrington's workplace conduct and the county's policies surrounding harassment, bullying and retaliation. Earlier this year, a report by an independent investigator revealed that other county employees also described a culture of fear of Harrington.
Despite this dust-up, voters reelected Harrington to a second four-year term as head of the board of commissioners back in May, with more than 53% choosing her over challenger Beach Pace, a Hillsboro city councilor.
The Westside Economic Alliance is a business advocacy group based in Tigard. It supports member businesses in communities in Washington County and western Clackamas County.
That also makes the WEA a big political player in the region, hosting roundtable discussions with local policymakers. It even hosted a debate between the two county chair candidates in the spring.
Tigard Mayor Jason Snider is also quoted in the WEA's release, touting Mazzara Myers' "solution-oriented" approach.
"I worked with her during the early days of COVID and saw her deftly navigate complicated federal funding programs and facilitate conversations with the Washington County mayors," Snider said.
While economic development is crucial for the region, Mazzara Myers said, she will focus on equity and targeting the WEA's advocacy to the unique communities in Washington County.
"As a region, we must drive economic growth through targeted investments that center equity," she said. "The first step on that path is ensuring our regional economic development association reflects the community we intend to serve."
While she told Pamplin Media Group she is still settling into her first week at the WEA and therefore is still developing strategies, Mazzara Myers said that there are many options on the table for attracting new member businesses — particularly minority- and women-owned businesses.
Future steps could include looking at reducing membership rates or offering interested businesses the ability to sit in on some meetings for free to get a feel for what membership benefits provide.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new quotes from the new executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance.
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