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Award marks journey from immigrant adoptee to county leader for East Multnomah County leader

COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Commissioner Lori Stegmann was honored by the Korean Society of Oregon last month.Outside Seoul City Hall a malnourished and underweight baby girl was abandoned in July 1960.

The baby was rescued by churchgoers who cared for her until she was able to survive a cargo flight to an adoptive family in Oregon.

Sixty years later, Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who represents East Multnomah County, was honored by the Korean Society of Oregon for her journey from immigrant adoptee to becoming the first Korean American Commissioner on the Multnomah County Board.

"The Korean community is very proud of Lori,'' said Greg Caldwell, Honorary Consul for South Korea. "They love seeing a Korean adoptee who has become a political leader in Oregon."

Jung-Bang Oh, president of the Korean Society of Oregon, presented Stegmann with a plaque of recognition Monday, Jan. 13, for "serving with great distinction and as a voice for Koreans in Oregon." The ceremony was held on Korean American Day.

Stegmann was adopted by Walt and Edna Stegmann, growing up in Rockwood and Gresham neighborhoods. She was one of the few people of color in her elementary school and the only person she knew in a mixed-race family. She was a successful businesswoman before diving into public service.

"I was surrounded by people who loved me but I always knew I was different," Stegmann said. "I often felt an indescribable void and longed to find a part of me I didn't know existed."

Stegmann served six years on the Gresham City Council and in 2016 was elected to the County Commission.

In 2017, Stegmann returned to South Korea with her daughter. They visited the steps of city hall where she had been abandoned, and was able to find the remnants of the orphanage where she had recovered.

"Going back to my birthplace and tracing my path was such an incredible gift — it helped me gain a deeper understanding of who I am and why I am so passionate about serving our communities," Stegmann said. "I don't take that lightly and I always try to be grateful for the many blessings I have been given."

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