Sheriff Reese reflects on life in SW Portland
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese really likes living near Gabriel Park. When his two youngest daughters were still in elementary school, and he was working his way up the ranks of the Portland Police Bureau, Reese moved his family west from inner NE Portland across the Willamette River to SW Portland.
"I really value the family feel of our neighborhood and that it's a safe place to raise my daughters. And I want it to be a safe community where they can raise their children some day," he said during an interview in his office across the street from the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge.
"I want this to be a community where we can raise generations of children, a community where it's safe. And that public safety foundation is what allows for a vibrant community. If we don't have safety, we don't have much else. If the schools aren't safe, if the places we visit aren't safe then people are going to move. They're going to vote with their feeet. They're going to move somewhere else."
Reese's career has been devoted to public safety. In May he was elected to a full four-year term as Sheriff, having been appointed to the position when his predecessor, Dan Staton, left office under a cloud. He was Portland's Chief of Police from 2010 to 2015. It all started in 1989 when he joined the Multnomah Co. Sheriff's Department as a 32-year old rookie. He became a Portland cop in 1994 when the City annexed some eastern parts of the County. He was promoted from officer to Sergaent to Lieutenant to Captain to Central Precinct Commander to Chief of Police.
It's hard to say when the elected Sheriff isn't working, but when's he's not carrying out his official duties, Reese is shopping at the Burlingame Fred Meyers, grabbbing a cup of coffee at the Hillsdale Starbucks on the way to work or taking advantage of Gabriel Park - where he does four-mile "tempo" runs - and the Southwest Community Center.
"Gabriel Park is one of the best parks in Portland," he says with a bit of local pride. "My wife and I play tennis there. She takes classes and I swim at Southwest Community Center."
He senses there's a demographic transition underway in his neighborhood.
"When we moved in we were a young family with two kids. We were a minority.
Here we were with young girls in elementary school and our neighbors were aging in place.
"We bought our home from someone that had raised a family and was moving on. I've seen that happen a lot in our neighborhood. Those who raised a family 20, 30 or 40 years ago have moved on and younger families are moving in," he noted.
"There are a lot more kids around. When we had National Night Out at first, our kids were the only children there. Now there are lots of kids," at the annual August neighborhood public safety get together.
He sees signs of growth all around.
"The business community is evolving. More infill housing is being built. I'm really glad we have land use committees at the neighborhood level that are paying attention to how that development takes place and to make sure it's integrated into our neighborhood fee., The vibe that we have in SW Portland is important," he said.
Pressed to compare and contrast living in SW with living in NE, he says Irvington had one clear advantage.
"Maplewood and Irvington are both great neighborhoods. But SW Portland has challenges for people who are pedestrians. When out girls were little and we lived in Irvington we'd always be walking to the baker and the banker and the post office just a few blocks from our home. I used to put everything in a stroller on the flat sidewalks and it was easy to get around. SW has its own challenges around pedestrian access."
There are no sidewalks where he lives but he doesn't think that's a big deal.
"Sidewalks are not....well on Vermont or through Multnomah Village where you have a lot of pedestrians I think sidewalks are really important."
On the issue of incressing density through zoning changes, the Sheriff says, "Everyone can have a say. We have our land use committees so that the identity we've established in our neighborhoods is part of that development process."
His formula for judging new development is simple, "It has to add to the vibrancy of a neighborhood rather than detract from it."
As for changes to the neighborhood if SW light rail becomes a reality?
"I support public transit. I think it's an important component of a thriving community for a whole variety of reason.s We are a growing, thriving community in Portland and we've got to accomodate more people and more transit."
What about crime in SW Portland?
"We're fortunate to live in a safe City, a safe County and a safe community" he answers. "Though it's always a concern when you're a victim of crime, we're fortunate that crime rates are at historic lows in our communities. That's certainly the case in SW Portland which is a really safe place to raise a family and own a business."
Sheriff Reese seems as settled in his position as top law enforcement officer in Multnomah County as he does in his home here. And he won't have to think about running again for Sheriff for another four years.
"I absolutely love being the elected Sheriff of Multnomah County. I'm really grateful for this opportunity."