After announcing his need to retire as a Portland City Commissioner for health reasons on New Year's Eve, Nick Fish lost his fight against stomach cancer and died just two days later, on January 2.
According to Sonia Schmanski, who worked in Commissioner Fish's office, "He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his loved ones. The family wanted me to convey publicly their thanks for all the words of love and encouragement sent to Nick since his resignation. Nick called his 11 years of service on the Portland City Council 'the great honor of my life'."
Fish was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2017. On this past December 31, Fish released a public statement saying that he was no longer able to carry out his work as a Commissioner, and announced his plan to resign upon the election of a successor.
Born Nicholas Stuyvesant Fish in September of 1958, he moved to Portland in 1996 after his wife, Patricia Schechter, was offered a teaching position in the History Department at Portland State University. He worked as an attorney at a downtown law firm, primarily in employment law.
With a lifelong interest in politics and public service, in 2004 Fish ran for a seat on the Portland City Council – but lost that year to Mayor Vera Katz's Chief of Staff, Sam Adams, who later went on to became Portland's Mayor.
After newly-elected Commissioner Erik Sten abruptly resigned his post, Fish ran in a special election in 2008, handily winning the position with 61.4% of the vote. He was re-elected to a full four-year term in 2010 by a landslide margin.
Fish served as Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Housing Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation; and, in 2011, beamed with pride when the Parks Bureau was presented the National Gold Medal Award for "Best Park System in the Nation".
When the Bureaus were reassigned by Mayor Charlie Hales in 2013, Fish became Commissioner of the Portland Bureau of Environment Services and the Portland Water Bureau, and was also placed in charge of the Regional Arts & Culture Council.
At his last press event in Southeast Portland – the groundbreaking of the Leach Botanical Garden Upper Garden and Tree Walk, last August 1 – Fish, once again reassigned to the Parks Bureau, told those assembled how proud he was that the City of Portland had provided some of the funding for the project.
Afterward, he told us, "I've loved all of the people and projects at all of the Portland Bureaus I've worked with, but my heart is with the Parks Bureau."
It seemed, to us, typical of the Commissioner that he did not let go of his city responsibilities until what turned out to be the very eve of his untimely death.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.