Kate Snyder Photo courtesy of Kate Snyder

Eight weeks from now, Portland voters will have an opportunity to choose a new mayor, which also gives us an opportunity to define our priorities, our values and our path forward as a vibrant and growing community. These are fascinating times for our city, marked by rapid development, shifting demographics, rising costs and a dynamic business landscape, all set against longer-term challenges like the impacts of climate change and the quest to diversify revenues in order to meet municipal needs. As a longtime resident of Portland, I’ve watched with some frustration as our current mayor has repeatedly clashed with the City Council and the city manager over issues large and small. I respect all who raise their hand for public service, but am distressed by activism replacing diplomacy and entrenchment replacing deliberation. The current climate has led to stalled progress and a fractious culture divided into winners and losers. It’s a style of leadership that can cause citizens to lose faith in what good government can do.

I believe we can do it differently, which is why I’m running to be Portland’s next mayor. I feel strongly that our city will be well served by a new voice on the council, someone who is calm, experienced and grounded in the belief that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts. We need a mayor with demonstrated success in public finance and budgeting, as well as experience balancing civic aspirations with fiscal discipline during trying times. In choosing a new mayor, one who has broad life and professional experience and is committed to working constructively with all stakeholders, Portland can make real progress on critical issues, including providing proper funding for education, working to eradicate homelessness and encouraging responsible development.

As I read the newspaper and talk to residents about their concerns, I am struck by the tensions that come when a community like ours moves from what has been, through what is, to what will be. How do we accommodate change while keeping Portland’s identity? How do we create an environment for economic growth? How do we invest meaningfully in our schools? The questions can feel daunting, especially within a political climate that feels more splintered than ever.

When I ran for an at-large school board seat in 2007, it was an unsettled time, defined by a $2 million school budget deficit, leadership resignations, shaken public trust and a burgeoning recession. Once elected, I became part of a team that believed collaboration was far more important than any individual gains. By rebuilding the leadership and remaining laser focused on accountability to the community, we were able to restore public confidence and balance the budget, all the while fostering the well-being of the city’s students and contributing to the overall growth and health that have led Portland to become the sought-after city that it is today.

My husband and I moved to Portland 25 years ago. Our three children were born here and attended the public schools. My optimism for this great place is rooted in my family’s experience, belief in our city’s compassion and inclusiveness and in the deep history we have come to know through friends and neighbors who are second-, third-and fourth-generation Portlanders: those who knew and loved Portland before it was on any Top 10 lists.

Right now is the time for steadying leadership. Over the course of my six years on the school board, I was elected by my peers to serve twice as finance chair and twice as chair of the board. I have since helped to establish and lead a foundation that generates non-taxpayer revenues for public education. I have the professional and life experience to serve Portland’s needs now. I will lead with integrity, be open to diverse perspectives and will work collaboratively with council colleagues and city staff. This work is not about politics – it’s about cooperation and leadership that allow us to make good decisions that strengthen Portland’s sense of place, and sense of belonging for all of us.


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