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Commission president becomes city's first mayor of color by wide margin over three other candidates.

According to unofficial results, Oregon City Commission President Denyse McGriff overwhelmingly won the Aug. 23 mayoral election.COURTESY PHOTO: DENYSE FOR OC - Commission President Denyse McGriff celebrated making history on Aug. 23 as Oregon City's first mayor of color with supporters on election night at OC Brewing Co.

McGriff said she was "elated and humbled by the support" of 80% of voters in a race that included three other candidates.

McGriff acknowledged that she has made Oregon City history for a third time with her mayoral election, first with her appointment by city commissioners in March 2019 to become the first person of color to serve on the Oregon City Commission, and secondly by having earned the support of voters in November 2020 to serve a full four-year term as a commissioner.

McGriff celebrated her third historical feat with supporters on election night at the Oregon City Brewing Co.

"History does indeed have its eyes on us," McGriff said. "I thank all of you and know I will do my best to continue to support our city."

McGriff handily won the August mayoral election despite an error by the office of Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall to send the incorrect voters' pamphlets to approximately 3,800 Oregon City households, or about 6,500 total voters. The error only affected McGriff, since her campaign was the only one out of the four to pay for a pamphlet statement.

Hall's elections office later sent out correct voter pamphlets, but only to each household in Precinct 600 rather than individually addressed to each voter who received incorrect pamphlets enclosed with their mayoral ballots. The separate mailing with the correct pamphlet was addressed to "all voters" at each household in Precinct 600, and Hall provided no explanation in the separate mailing as to why the elections office made the error.

During her mayoral campaign, McGriff highlighted some recent successes by the city such as new parks and securing $2 million in federal funds expected to spur residential development downtown through the construction of a railroad quiet zone.

Former Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith resigned effective April 22, which elevated McGriff to assuming the duties of interim mayor. McGriff's run for the mayoral position garnered the support of her fellow commissioners who said that someone with City Commission experience should be mayor.

McGriff was unanimously appointed commission president during the Jan. 5 meeting of commissioners. In that role, McGriff has assumed mayoral duties of running city commission meetings and appointing citizens to advisory boards.

During the May election, voters directed city commission as a whole, rather than solely the mayor, to appoint members of the Historic Review Board and Planning Commission, which are public bodies that often make final decisions in important land-use cases. Voters also approved a change in city charter to elect city commission candidates based on the two who receive the most votes during an election year, rather than having candidates run for numbered positions.

Prior to serving in elected office, McGriff chaired Oregon City's Planning Commission and the McLoughlin Neighborhood Association.

McGriff is retired after working as a city planner in cities across the state, including Tillamook and Oregon City. She spent the final 17 years of her career as a senior project manager for the Portland Development Commission.

One year prior to being elected commission president, in January 2021, commissioners also unanimously elected McGriff as chair of the Urban Renewal Commission. She continued to serve in that role until the URC elected Commissioner Frank O'Donnell as the new chair this year.

McGriff plans to run for office again in November, in less than three months, to serve a full four-year term as mayor.

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