Devon Downeysmith running for Forest Grove City Council
Communications consultant and city volunteer Devon Downeysmith has officially thrown her hat into the ring for a seat on the Forest Grove City Council this year.
Downeysmith previously applied to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Matt Vandehey from the City Council last year. The council voted to appoint Adolph "Val" Valfre Jr. to the council from a crowded field of candidates — which Downeysmith said didn't surprise her, considering Valfre's experience as executive director of Washington County Housing Services.
"I saw the vacancy as a potential first step (to running for City Council), but once Mr. Valfre applied, you know, I knew that he was going to get it," said Downeysmith, who serves on Forest Grove's Committee for Community Involvement. "He just has such tremendous experience and ideas, and I would love to work with him."
Another member of the City Council whom Downeysmith hopes to work with is Malynda Wenzl, who is running for re-election this year. Wenzl has endorsed Downeysmith's candidacy in the at-large race.
"Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to work alongside Devon, and I'm impressed with her skill set," Wenzl told the News-Times in an email. "She is bilingual and has been an ally for our Latino community. She has advocated for clean energy in Salem and would be a strong voice advocating for Forest Grove on a state and national level. As a whole, I think she would benefit our community greatly."
Other early endorsers of Downeysmith's campaign include state Rep. Susan McLain, who represents most of the Forest Grove area in the Oregon House of Representatives, and Bridget Cooke, executive director of the Forest Grove-based nonprofit group Adelante Mujeres.
Downeysmith, a marketing and communications professional, has worked with both the Oregon Legislature and Adelante Mujeres, she noted. She previously worked for Susan G. Komen's Oregon and Southwest Washington chapter group, the public relations firm Edelman, and the Oregon Environmental Council before starting her own business.
"Part of why I went freelance was really because I wanted to have the flexibility to focus on, I call it 'values-driven projects,'" Downeysmith said. "Things that I'm really passionate about, personally. … I feel really blessed that, being freelance, I get to kind of pick and choose and use my skills on projects that I really think improve our community."
A graduate of Arts & Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton and Lewis & Clark College in Southwest Portland, Downeysmith has lived in Forest Grove for the past two years, though she said she also lived part-time in the city during college, when her now-husband was a student at Pacific University.
"We moved back a couple years ago because we just really thought this was an ideal community in which to raise our daughter," Downeysmith said.
Downeysmith has also spent time living in Latin America, she said, in the cities of Xalapa, Mexico, and Valparaiso, Chile. She was a Hispanic studies major in college and speaks Spanish fluently, something she views as an asset running for office in a city with a sizable Latino minority.
"I really want to do more to bring our Latino community together," Downeysmith said. "And so much of why I'm running is because I'm passionate about lifting voices and bringing people together, and I really want to see more representation on City Council that better reflects the community that we serve — so more young parents, more women, more Latinos. And I'm hoping that me being a young parent and someone who's really invested in this community, and also being someone who's bilingual and has a lot of relationships with our Latino community, can help bring those folks to the table."
Thanks to her background working in the nonprofit sector, Downeysmith said, she has what she called a "scrappy, solutions-oriented attitude" that she wants to bring to the Forest Grove City Council.
Downeysmith announced her candidacy well before the official start of the candidate filing period on July 9 because she wanted to have extra time to meet with "key stakeholders" and talk with community members about what they see as the issues facing Forest Grove, she said. Among her key issues are supporting more affordable housing and solutions to homelessness, protecting farmland and the agriculture sector, championing clean energy, and improving the city's engagement with Spanish-speaking residents.
Three seats on the City Council are up for election in November. The four-year terms of Wenzl and Councilors Tom Johnston and Ron Thompson are set to expire at the end of the year.
Mayor Pete Truax, up for re-election this fall, has also confirmed he plans to run for another four-year term.
Under Forest Grove's voting system, candidates for City Council are elected at-large from a single list, rather than to specific positions or for geographic districts. The top three vote-getters for City Council will be elected.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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