Commissioner Amanda Fritz: Farewell to public life
As 2021 began, the City of Portland lost a calm and reasoned voice at City Hall, as long-time Commissioner Amanda Fritz retired from public life, after not seeking reelection.
Whenever we had the opportunity to ask Commissioner Fritz why she was attending some event east of the river – be it involved with parks or nature areas, business associations, or identity groups – her response was consistent: "I was invited to come, and here I am!" She was one of the few City Commissioners in recent years to spend much time in Inner Southeast Portland, or indeed on the east side of the Willamette River.
Days before she left, Commissioner Fritz gave an interview with THE BEE about her time in office.
During her first year on the Portland City Council, "I learned my past experience as nurse, and as a mother, contributed a different, valuable perspective compared with that of the four men on the Council."
About her style of public governance, Fritz said she didn't believe her approach had changed over her dozen years as a Portland City Commissioner.
"But, I hope I'm more skilled now, after twelve years of practice! I still work at listening, learning, doing my homework, and focusing on spending taxpayers' money wisely, to provide basic services in all 95 Portland neighborhoods," she commented.
It was difficult to pick her favorite City Bureau assignment, Fritz said. "It was deeply satisfying to be able to dedicate over $70 million for new parks in East Portland while being Parks Commissioner. There's so much joy in parks.
"I also loved being in charge of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and the Office of Equity and Human Rights," Fritz reflected.
We asked about the most challenging issues she'd faced while serving in Portland City government: "Oh gosh, I started in 2009 with the Great Recession, and ended in 2020 with COVID-19: it's impossible to pick just one!"
This led us into her hopes and aspirations for the City of Portland, as time goes forward.
"I hope the new Council, with the first two-term Mayor this century, will work together to help us 'Build Back Better' after COVID," Fritz commented. "Portland can't thrive unless everyone, in every part of our city, is safe and supported. Our communities must work together, especially while striving for needed changes."
At least one incoming Commissioner asked Fritz for guidance while preparing to come into office.
"When he asked, one piece of advice I gave Commissioner Dan Ryan was, 'remember that their urgency is not necessarily your urgency'. People both on city staff, and in the community, often demand answers/action immediately, when in fact, developing solutions to complex problems often takes time and broad engagement," Fritz said.
"Another is when a reporter sticks a microphone in your face and asks a challenging question, sometimes the best answer in the moment is, 'I'll get back to you on that' – and then you do the work, and get back to them with a much better answer than a reply that's off-the-cuff."
Without weekdays and weekends filled with meetings, online and otherwise, Fritz said she now looks forward to many activities. "I have a grandchild who is five months old and lives two miles from me, so I plan to do a lot of walking down the hill and back to see her. . .
"After the vaccine, I hope to resume traveling," Fritz remarked, with a sparkle in her eyes. "I have a daughter in California and a son and his partner in Chicago, plus my mother in England is still strong and healthy at 90."
Both as an elected leader, and as a resident, her parting words as she leaves public life were, "Thank you, for all your support and kindness to me over the past thirty years, and the information you've shared during my time on the Council which has helped us achieve improvements together.
"Portland is a better place citywide because of the work and advocacy of Southeast Portlanders," Fritz said.
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