David Emami becomes state's first Iranian-American city councilor
David Emami became the first Iranian-American member of a city council in Oregon's history with Happy Valley councilors appointing him by a 3-1 vote on March 5.
Mayor Tom Ellis was the tie-breaking vote after the council voted 2-2 five times in failed attempts to make a decision at this week's council meeting.
Emami, a member of Happy Valley's Planning Commission and Parks Advisory Committee, will fill the seat Ellis vacated by becoming mayor in January.
"As a person of color, I hope to inspire others out there to achieve their goals," Emami said. "It is my absolute goal to represent all people of Happy Valley, and I will give this position the time, energy and effort it deserves. I sincerely thank everyone who helped me along the way to get to where I am."
Emami thanked the three councilors who voted for him and said he hopes to represent the other five applicants who were finalists for the position.
"I hope to stay in touch with all of them so that their voices and ideas are also heard and represented," Emami said. "I am humbled, appreciative and thankful for this opportunity. I have dedicated so much of my time and energy towards helping our city and I am proud to have been appointed."
Emami plans to run for election to a full four-year term on the November 2020 ballot.
"Diversity in our thoughts and opinions is what makes us stronger as a community," Emami wrote in his application for appointment. "As someone who understands the racism, prejudice and stereotypes that come with being a minority, I could be a strong voice for the underrepresented and a champion of the people."
Ellis voted for Ana Sarish three times and voted against Emami twice before voting for Emami in the third round. As previously reported, both Emami and Sarish were poised to make history and had been named among six finalists among 14 applicants for the position.
"We have two exceptionally good candidates here, and it's really, really tough," Ellis said during the March 5 appointment process. "We're going to make a round of votes one more time, and if it remains a tie after that, then we're going to be a four-person council until 2020."
Councilor Markley Drake said that Sarish was the more qualified candidate in terms of her ability to work with outside groups. Sarish is a member of the North Clackamas School District's Parent and Community Leadership Alliance, while both Sarish and Emami are PTA members. Drake suggested that the conversation be moved to a future meeting, but Ellis said he wanted to resolve the issue that evening and move on to other pressing issues facing the city.
"I'm sorry, Ana, but we needed to resolve this," Ellis said after switching his vote to Emami in the sixth and final vote.
Councilor David Golobay said that increasing the diversity of City Council was a factor in his decision, as well as Emami's deep knowledge of land-use practices as they relate to cities.
"Of course I want to see diversity on our council, and I believe David fulfills that," Golobay said. "He was very active during a very tumultuous time in our city with the Scouters Mountain development and Pioneer Highlands. He represented a very diverse group of people extremely well during that time, and all the while on something that is as divisive as development has been to this city, he was a uniter."
Happy Valley's City Council had been four white men until Emami's appointment. Councilor Brett Sherman said that the current makeup of the council weighed on his decision.
"It's certainly a factor as far of the overall consideration," Sherman said.
Sherman added that Emami checked all the boxes for him in terms of proven track record as a moderate with a history of crossing political aisles and bringing people together.