WL resident joins Metro council race
At several points this winter, West Linn resident Christine Lewis found herself in the midst of heady conversations about the future of the Portland region and what role Metro would play in determining it.
"We're at this tipping point that I see in housing and transportation and livability," Lewis said. "That series of conversations led me to realize I've got to step up and put my name out there, and my experience forward."
Lewis did just that in filing Jan. 16 to join three other candidates — Oak Grove resident Betty Dominguez, Lake Oswego City Councilor Joe Buck and former Oregon City Commissioner Carol Pauli — in the race for the District 2 Metro Council seat opened up by the Jan. 2 retirement of Carlotta Collette. The filing deadline for the election is March 6 and a primary will be held May 15. If no candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will face off in a Nov. 6 general election.
Lewis is also applying for appointment to fill the remainder of Collette's term through 2018. The deadline for those applications is March 1 and a public hearing regarding the vacancy is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 8, at the Willamette View Terrace Auditorium, 12705 S.E. River Road, Oak Grove. The council must appoint an interim replacement for Collette by April 2.
As she revs up for the campaign, Lewis has plenty of government experience to fall back on. She currently serves as the legislative director for the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) — a position she arrived at just this past January — and is also the current chair of both the Clackamas County Vector Control District Budget Committee and the West Linn Historic Review Board. Prior to arriving at BOLI, Lewis served as a senior associate for the City of Portland Office of Government Relations from 2016-17. She was a policy director for Multnomah County from 2014-15 and also served as assistant legislative director for the Office of the Speaker of the House in 2013.
"Working in the state Legislature both as an advocate for local government and now a state agency, as well as environmental and workers' rights groups, I think that advocacy absolutely will make me a better Metro councilor," Lewis said. "I have understood the system as someone who is trying to affect change; I know how to work to get to 'yes,' particularly on issues where there are multiple interest groups."
Community engagement is particularly important to Lewis, and she says she has the experience to make people feel heard.
"I know how to work for community engagement models that aren't just checking the box," she said, "but actually raising voices of actual people and community organizations."
If elected, Lewis said housing would be her top priority on the council. In 2016, she managed the City of Portland's successful campaign for a $258.4 million affordable housing package.
"Now, Metro is considering going to voters for support on housing regionally, not just in Portland," Lewis said. "It impacts all of our communities and that is extremely valuable experience I would bring to the council."
She added transportation, parks and waste management as other priorities for Metro moving forward. As for leadership style, Lewis would aim to be as open as possible with her constituents.
"I think I will be a councilor who listens more than I speak," she said. "I work extremely hard, and even folks who disagree with me on policy will say I'm an open door and will work hard to meet people where they're at — and I'd bring that to the work I do on the council."
Lewis also hopes to add to the ranks of women who are making their voices heard in politics.
"It's 2018 and I think women are stepping up in a really new and different way in the political sphere, so I'm proud to be part of that wave," she said.
Lewis was born and raised in Texas and moved to the Portland area in 2003. She graduated from Reed College with a bachelor's degree in anthropology and is currently working on a graduate certificate in social impact strategy through the University of Pennsylvania.
Lewis lived in Milwaukie for four years before moving to West Linn's Willamette area with her husband in 2011.
"I was enchanted by the parks and local school system," Lewis said.