One of the most diverse candidate pools voters will choose from this November is for Gresham City Council Position 3 — which includes four people representing different backgrounds and ideas.
The candidates are Raymond Love, Vincent Jones-Dixon, Beshara Shahin, and Matthew Burnett.
Brianna Harris dropped out of the race after this story appeared in the print edition of The Outlook.
The candidates spoke about why they are running for council, and what issues they prioritize.
Matthew Burnett did not respond in time for publication.
Love has a vision for his community that would turn Gresham into a destination filled with thriving businesses and amenities, rather than a place one passes through on their way to the mountain.
Some of his ideas include bringing back the annual Mt. Hood Jazz Festival; expanding public transportation; revitalizing small businesses; enticing new industrial companies to expand employment opportunities; and making the community safe for all.
For Love, it's about bringing back a sense of optimism that has been missing during a series of events that struck Gresham. Between the pandemic, budget crunch, departures in leadership and accusations of systemic racism in City Hall — he was spurred to make a difference.
"As an outsider looking in, I saw how the city of Gresham response was a group of politicians in 'react mode' trying to navigate these events," Love said. "I realized there is a real lack of leadership in providing a vision for the community."
Now Love is one of the candidates vying for Gresham Council Position 3.
"I am not a politician, I am not going into this position for a political career," he said. "I think I can make a difference and reflect the voters more than some of the other candidates."
After graduating high school and growing up in North Portland, Love joined the Oregon National Guard, where he served in virtually every leadership role through battalion commander. He initially opened a mortgage business in Gresham, before being pulled away by active duty in 2006. He returned to Gresham in 2013, where he started an insurance agency.
If elected Love wants to restore confidence in police services and provide better funding to law enforcement; examine how the city is spending money and make hard choices with budget cuts; and dive into the accusations of racism in Gresham.
"When racism raises its ugly head you need to shine a light on those responsible," Love said. "In order to make change, you have to elect somebody who has been successful despite the racism and challenges we face as African Americans."
In his first few months as a councilor, Jones-Dixon has already found himself in the middle of difficult issues facing the community, adding a unique perspective that has been missing in Gresham.
In late August, council convened an emergency meeting hours before two planned protests were to meet under the Black Lives Matter flag flying at City Hall. One side had made posts on social media about "tearing down the flag," while the other was ready to defend it. Adding to concerns were reports of spearheading by the Proud Boys, who have been at the center of violent encounters in downtown Portland.
As some on the council debated whether it would be best to temporarily bring down the BLM flag, Jones-Dixon expressed a different opinion. He spoke about the importance of the symbol for many in the community — a place where he has grown up as a Black man.
"You have to listen and ask questions — create a space where everyone is comfortable," Jones-Dixon said.
Eventually the council followed his route, leaving the flag in place and managing the protests. In just two months, Jones-Dixon has also joined discussions around the city's budget crisis; parks and recreation funding; and emergency preparedness during the wildfires.
Jones-Dixon currently serves as the team trip program manager with Africa New Life Ministries. He previously spent more than a decade in the funeral industry. He has volunteered with the Rockwood CDC and Beyond Black CDC, and serves on the Gresham Charter Review Committee.
If Jones-Dixon is elected, he has several goals he wants to achieve for Gresham.
He wants to continue educating business owners about the options available for COVID-19 economic recovery; investigate charges of systemic racism within City Hall and bring more diversity, equity and inclusion to the city; and better connect law enforcement with the community they serve.
"I will be championing the underrepresented," Jones-Dixon said. "I'm excited to get started."
One of Shahin's heroes in life is someone he was lucky enough to meet — Nelson Mandela, a towering anti-apartheid leader in South Africa.
The two briefly crossed paths in 1999 when Shahin was serving in an administrative position at the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv. Mandela visited the region to lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel. Shahin was part of the welcoming party.
"I look up to him — his push to use nonviolence to achieve his aspirations is something I have tried to follow," Shahin said. "Everyone has a right to demonstrate and stand up for what they believe in — but it is not right to achieve that through violence."
Now Shahin is looking to bring his experiences as a community and business leader to his new home of Gresham, vying for Council Position 3.
"If I want to be a part of this community, I have to contribute in a positive way," he said. "I believe I can be an asset to this city."
Shahin is originally from the Holy Land — Israel and Palestine — where he worked in baking and central banking as a loans and investment officer. He also volunteered with the American Consulate General in Jerusalem and served on the board of directors as treasurer for the YMCA Middle East.
He moved to the U.S. when he was 20 to graduate with a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1992, before returning to the Middle East to pursue his career. His family decided to emigrate and settled in Gresham, where he works as a sales consultant with Gresham Subaru.
Shahin wants to address parks and recreation needs; provide funding for law enforcement while bringing better training for officers; bolster education opportunities with financial support to Mt. Hood Community College; and improve city infrastructure with an investment in roads and transportation.
"I want to start a dialogue — I am very open to new ideas," Shahin said.
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