For first time in decades, Gresham appoints a Black city councilor
Gresham has appointed its first Black city councilor in at least three decades after a unanimous vote Tuesday afternoon, July 21, to fill a vacant seat.
Vincent Jones-Dixon, a Gresham resident and advocate, was named to the Council Position 3 left open after Mayor Karylinn Echols shifted into her new role. Jones-Dixon was selected after a long public interview process that included 15 applicants representing diverse parts of the community.
"It is truly an honor to serve in this capacity," Jones-Dixon said. "I'm looking forward to participating with this council."
Jones-Dixon will serve through the remainder of the calendar year. He will also have the opportunity to either run for new council position or another role during the November election.
"Vince has the experience — his work with nonprofits and in the African American community all is important to me," said Councilor Mario Palmero.
Jones-Dixon was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and graduated from De La Salle North Catholic High School. He studied broadcasting and communications through the integrated media program at Mt. Hood Community College. He has lived in Gresham for more than 9 years.
He began working in the funeral industry in 2008, supporting families in making decisions while mourning the loss of a loved one, before transitioning to a new role as the Team Trip Program Manager with Africa New Life Ministries.
Jones-Dixon is also heavily involved in the community as a volunteer. He is on the Gresham Charter Review Committee and an active member with Beyond Black CDC.
"I think he brings a perspective having worked within the community and in a small business environment," said Councilor David Widmark. "We (needed) to round out council in some areas that none of us bring to the table."
The decision was not made lightly by council, who went through a process lasting more than 5 hours before selecting Jones-Dixon.
"I don't think we have ever had this kind of quality applicants for appointment or election," said Councilor Jerry Hinton. "Anyone of them would do a great job and could add a lot to this council."
The appointment continues Gresham leadership's ongoing work to provide stability in City Hall after a tumultuous summer marked by resignations and retirements. It was the unexpected departure of Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis that led to Echols leaving her post as councilor and opening the seat up to Jones-Dixon.
Many people applied for the position, with 15 finalists going through the interview process. The nominees included recent high school graduates, former councilors, business leaders, dedicated volunteers and former law enforcement employees. Many had lived in Gresham for decades, and all were passionate about uplifting Gresham.
"This is a dream come true for me to see so many diverse and qualified candidates stepping up," said Councilor Eddy Morales.
The full list of candidates were Sebastian Juarez Castellanos, Gelinda Chernault, Edward Chin, Martha Croghan, Paul Drechsler, Rose Ellis, Bill Hay, Patricia Hull, Cathy Keathley, Raymond Love, Rhianna McCloud, Jacquenette McIntire, Stuart Palmiter, and Laura Pramuk.
"I am really excited about the caliber of people who put their names forward — it gives me great hope and optimism for our community," said Mayor Echols.
Many of the councilors advocated that the other applicants stay involved and apply as city volunteers, committee and task force members, and other roles throughout the community.
"That is a great place to get involved and get your feet wet," Hinton said.
Jones-Dixon will be sworn into his position during a small ceremony Wednesday morning, July 22.
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