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Denyse McGriff again makes history by taking position with mayoral powers when mayor is absent

Oregon City's Denyse McGriff was unanimously appointed commission president during the Jan. 5 meeting of commissioners.COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF OC - Denyse McGriff will be wielding the gavel as Oregon City Commission president during Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith's absences.

"It's going to be a little more responsibility, but it shows a continued spirit of cooperation among the commissioners and that everyone's opinion is valued," McGriff said.

McGriff made history with her appointment by city commissioners in March 2019 to become the first person of color to serve on the Oregon City Commission, and then earned the support of voters in November 2020 to serve a full four-year term. Prior to serving in elected office, she chaired Oregon City's Planning Commission and 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.

"I'm ready to embrace that additional challenge, and hopefully my performance chairing urban renewal has shown my fellow commissioners that I'm ready to be president," McGriff said.

One year prior to being elected commission president, in January 2021, commissioners also unanimously elected McGriff as chair of the Urban Renewal Commission. She continues to serve in that role, although the URC may elect a new chair during its upcoming Feb. 16 meeting.COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF OC - Denyse McGriff was appointed by city commissioners to chair Oregon City's Urban Renewal Commission starting in January 2021.

City charter specifies that the commission president shall perform mayoral duties in the mayor's absence, so McGriff will run meetings of City Commission when Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith is on vacation. In November 2020, when the former mayor was recalled from office, Lyles Smith as commission president took over the process for appointing advisory-board positions. Mayors and city commissioners can also temporarily declare an emergency, such as during last February's ice storm to allocate city resources for response.

In 2021, Commissioner Rocky Smith took over as commission president, which commissioners said had nothing to do with Lyles Smith's ability to perform the role, saying she did a commendable job. Oregon City commissioners have traditionally rotated the role of commission president annually to the commission's most senior member who has not yet served in the position.

"I happened to be acting mayor during the last ice storm," Smith said. "It was an adventure."

McGriff's appointment as commission president follows that tradition, since the only other member of City Commission who has not served as president, Adam Marl, has served less than a year in office.

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