Portland Mayor Kate Snyder has decided not to seek reelection in 2023. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder won’t seek reelection in 2023, a decision she wanted to announce ahead of the election this November so that voters have a clear picture of proposed changes to the structure of city government that is not clouded by her plans.

“The reason I’m sharing this information right now is the significant change we face on the November ballot with regards to the governance structure,” said Snyder, who was elected in 2019 and is in the third year of a four-year term. “Me taking a vocal position on that change is not steeped in self-interest.”

Snyder, 52, said she has been fielding questions about whether she plans to seek reelection and whether her opposition to the Portland Charter Commission’s proposed changes to the mayor’s role stem from a personal interest.

“That’s not the case,” she said.

But she said such questions gave her time to reflect on the last three years, which came with many challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests for racial justice that followed the death of George Floyd, a homeless encampment on the steps of City Hall, a slate of citizens’ initiatives that passed in 2020 and an influx of asylum seekers coming to the city.

Snyder said there wasn’t any one thing that prompted her decision. “I’m not saying I’m not running again because it’s been too hard or the issues are too complex,” she said. “I looked at the totality of the experience and what I want in my life. I show up and try to do my best. People are asking me if (the charter commission proposal) passes, what are you going to do? And the more I thought about it, I want to do these four years and then I won’t seek reelection.”



Some of Snyder’s current and former colleagues at City Hall lamented her decision Monday, though it did not come as a total surprise. The mayor has said previously that she would not seek reelection if the charter commission proposal passes.

“Although I respect her decision, I’m very saddened by the news,” interim City Manager Danielle West said. “I have a great working relationship with her. She understands the role of mayor as the charter describes it and she is a great facilitator between staff and the council. She’s been an effective communicator and very thoughtful in her approach.”

West said Snyder’s tenure so far has been one of the most challenging periods for any mayor in recent history.

“I could go on for days,” West said. “But through all that she has forged ahead and approached these issues head-on. She’s a hard worker and I will miss working with her a great deal.”

City Councilor Andrew Zarro, in a text message, said Snyder “has worked tirelessly to meet the moment over these past few years” and that he has been grateful for her leadership.


“Mayor Snyder has lived her values and has never shuttered in the face of adversity,” Zarro said. “She is a consensus builder in a time when consensus is considered a vulgar word. I am grateful for the guidance and wisdom she has shared with me while we have been in office together, and I am looking forward to working with her for the remainder of her term.”

Former City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, who ran against Snyder for mayor in 2019 and also served alongside her on the council, said in an email Monday that he was grateful for her leadership through “an extremely difficult time.”

“Mayor Snyder’s ability to listen to varying constituencies, build relationships with her colleagues on the council and work with city staff embodies the mayoral role, as outlined in the charter,” Thibodeau said. “Mayor Snyder is a great colleague and above all else, a true friend. I wish her the best in whatever adventure comes next.”


A few months after Snyder’s swearing in, the city declared a state of emergency for COVID-19. The city faced a high-profile homeless encampment lasting more than two weeks outside City Hall in the summer of 2020 and saw unprecedented protests responding to the death of George Floyd and calls for police accountability.

And there have been challenges with staff shortages and turnover, including the departure of the former city manager last year shortly after a charter commissioner accused him of being a white supremacist and said he should lose his job.


“Managing through staff transitions has been really difficult,” Snyder said. “Our city manager left. We needed to hire an interim city manager. That’s a very difficult thing to do when the whole structure of city government is being reconsidered and the process hasn’t really yet begun in earnest. Being able to figure out that puzzle with an interim city manager … that was significant work.”

At the same time, Snyder said there also have been successes and progress.

When she first took office, Snyder said council-appointed management of the city hadn’t been evaluated for several years, so it was a priority of hers to evaluate the city manager, corporation counsel and city clerk, to make sure their pay was up to date and make sure there was a clear protocol for reviews.

The city also broke ground on a new homeless services center last spring to replace the existing Oxford Street Shelter and approved the council’s first code of ethics.

“It certainly has not been a quiet few years,” Snyder said.



Snyder says she hasn’t thought yet about what she plans to do after her term is up at the end of 2023. For now, she said she’s committed to seeing through the work of the next year.

That includes taking a look at the elections portion of the city code and determining whether changes need to be made around the citizens’ initiative process. Snyder said that if the council decides to take up that issue and recommend changes, she wants to ensure there’s adequate feedback.

“As I think about possible changes, I want to be sure we have engagement and give the work the time it deserves,” she said. “I think you need time and I think you need outreach and transparency and engagement. (The elections portion) of the city code, is really important to me, and I think we ought to do that work.”

As mayor, Snyder also serves as chair of the search committee for the next city manager. She said that work is continuing so the city will be ready to make a hire if the commission’s proposal doesn’t pass. “I’m not standing flat-footed, waiting to see what happens,” Snyder said. “We’ll be ready to act.”

In addition, she’s hoping to make progress on issues around General Assistance – which under state law provides for necessities like housing and food for people in need – and how to best respond to asylum seekers, whom the city saw arrive in unprecedented numbers this year.

“I imagine we’ll continue to talk a lot about homelessness and housing and I want to see how we can work both as a city and with the state with regards to housing,” Snyder said.



Last spring Snyder joined several former mayors in opposing the charter commission’s proposal for city leadership, which seeks to create an executive mayor who would no longer be a member of the City Council and who would have enhanced authorities, including the ability to veto council ordinances, issue executive orders and nominate department heads.

The proposal also eliminates the city manager position and creates a new “chief administrator” who would report to the mayor, rather than the council, and oversee day-to-day operations.

Michael Kebede, who chaired the charter commission, said Monday that he doesn’t think the mayor’s announcement about reelection will have any impact on how voters see the proposal.

“It’s understandable that someone who ran for the current position wouldn’t want to run for the position we’re seeking to establish,” said Kebede, who said the new position would have much more responsibility and authority than what is included in the mayor’s current job description.

He also said that while the charter commission heard feedback from people who are upset with the current structure of city government, that’s not Snyder’s fault.

“I think the current mayor ran on the promise of making the current system work, and the current system requires a lot of deference to the city manager,” Kebede said. “That’s how the system has been structured for a long time. I think there’s unhappiness with the current system. We heard it through our work. But I wouldn’t place that at the feet of Mayor Snyder. I would place that at the feet of the way the charter is structured.”

Kebede hopes voters read through all eight proposals the commission has brought forward.

“These proposals can’t be reduced to sound bites,” he said. “I would encourage everyone to read them and make their minds up on each reform and not adopt a one-size blanket stance against every question, because I do think it’s possible for voters to understand each proposal if they spend a few hours reading and mulling it over.”

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