Eileen Brady: The Right Approach for Portland

Nova Newcomer

As for me, I don't have Brady's back, I have Portland's back — because that's what Eileen Brady asked of me in our interview last spring. I hope she has the opportunity to ask it of all of us as Portland's next Mayor.

Eileen Brady: The Right Approach for Portland

Photo Credit: Michael Capp from OPB's A Day on the Campaign Trail: Eileen Brady

The next mayor of Portland will be a smart, committed and qualified public servant with a wealth of knowledge, unique experience and a deep love for the town in which they live. Who am I talking about? Any of the three major candidates for Portland's Mayor.

If you think that Portland Streetcar was just a pet project of a City Councilor who left his term early, then try to imagine our city's landscape without it.

If your definition of a man-child who can't deliver is someone who founded an organization that has helped enfranchise and engage scores of young people in our state, then I think you are cynical.

And if you think that investing in and helping found a successful local business in an established, old school industry isn't a qualification of executive leadership, then I simply don't know what would qualify.

So what I am looking for in the next leader for Portland? I want someone with the right agenda AND the right approach. Quite frankly, with a few exceptions (that I am sure you all can and will debate at length in the comments), I think our field of major mayoral candidates have similar agendas. Let's face it, that's Portland City Council races, where nuance defines the narrative. What they don't share is approach. Approach is a harder nut to crack, but it's also the key to implementation. It doesn't come as a 6 point plan or a list of priorities or even the "silver bullet" policy initiative -- it's a process and it's the most challenging part of leadership because it is not flashy (or even largely recognized) and yet it WILL determine success.

When I look at the issues facing our city, the approach I am looking for is someone who can convene disparate groups and ask the hard questions about where our city needs to go. From the very start of this campaign, Eileen Brady has been consistent in her message that economic development and growing family-wage jobs are the key to delivering and/or maintaining the progressive values that make our city great and that Eileen herself has been an active leader on in our community.

When she had just announced her candidacy in late spring, Brady granted me an early interview. I will never forget her closing line, "…We can be a lifestyle city, but we have to have an economic engine. Progressives need to embrace it, to take that up as their cause. Our folks need to say, 'Economic engine! That's our big revolution right now.' And take it up and do it the way we want to do it." It was as if she had taken the words right out of my mouth. I have long been discouraged by the notion that progressive values are at odds with a thriving business community. Find me a place where a thriving economy isn't supported by properly-funded government services and infrastructure. I repeat, Brady said, "Do it (economic engine) the way WE want to do it."

Brady advocates for a business community in partnership with our vision for the city. Portland needs its business partners at the table and Brady understands how to put that table together. Whether in her civic life serving as Vice Chair of the Oregon Health Fund Board and helping to ensure 90,000 kids received access to health care or in her business life where bridging the divide between commerce and progressive values has been her undivided focus — a Brady mayoral administration is a rare opportunity for the leadership of our city to deliver the true partnership from our business community that our public services so desperately need.

I first met Brady last spring when I was invited to a gathering of women leaders hosted at her home. It wasn't the first of these meetings and they had rotated from home to home, so my first night with this group just happened to be Brady's turn to host. The buzz from the other women in the room about her potential campaign announcement was high, but it was Brady who shied away from making this meeting about her. Instead, this gathering was about introducing everyone and allowing everyone to share opportunities and ideas for community service (Brady's was a food backpack program for elementary students). Even in 2012, women can still find themselves to be the only ones or a small minority in rooms of power so many women will understand the powerful (and still uncommon) experience of being in a room filled only with women leaders. In this room, every voice mattered and no one was top dog and yet Brady's leadership was palpable in the room — and it wasn't because SHE was asking for it, rather the women in the room were asking it of HER. This was my first introduction to the Brady style of leadership.

And this is the Brady I have consistently seen throughout the campaign. She has had to balance delicately her need to prove her experience to meet the higher standard for female candidates while at the same time advocate for her preferred style, a coalition-building approach to problem-solving. (See why more women don't run for office)

Nobody believes, of course, that a run for office involves no ego. To put oneself forward to lead in the private or public sector takes a certain amount of moxie — to make the steely and decisive investment decisions that Brady has made clearly underscores her confident leadership, but one most only look at where she has made those investments to see the substance of this candidate's vision for our city (Chinook Book, Zenger Farm, EcoTrust, New Seasons Market). Perhaps to the chagrin and confusion of more conventional followers of campaigns, Brady has made a clear decision to run this race on leadership approach. Having coached executives and senior managers for many years on communication strategy, I have seen the pitfalls of leaders attempting to implement agendas without being coupled with the right approach. And I think we have seen these pitfalls play out on our City Council before as well. And in a tight race, Brady's approach is a distinguishing factor.

There are great volunteers and staff working on all three of the campaigns. Whether you are Team Hales, Smith or Brady, I sincerely applaud the commitment and fervor for which you support your candidate. Commitment to public service is a beautiful thing. As for me, I don't have Brady's back, I have Portland's back — because that's what Eileen Brady asked of me in our interview last spring. I hope she has the opportunity to ask it of all of us as Portland's next Mayor.

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    "I first met Brady last spring when I was invited to a gathering of women leaders hosted at her home."

    Maybe I am getting old, but I would be very hesitant to evaluate anyone based on a year's experience. The problem with Brady is that we have no experience with her serving in public office.

    Public service is not about "bringing people together". When you "bring people together" you get to choose people for their ability to contribute to a common goal. Public service requires solving problems where people with conflicting goals are all involved.

    The result is that people who made great contributions as private citizens can be major disappointments as public officials. Would anyone have expected Rex Burkholder to become the champion of the CRC, a huge new highway project, based on his work at the BTA? I don't think so. I sure didn't. And that is not the only example.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't roll the dice on a new face. But why would you with two highly qualified alternatives?

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    Nova thank you for your words. Eileen believes that enhancing Portland’s business community requires that the City take three steps to advance economic development: attract new businesses, grow entrepreneurship, help Oregon Minority Business ( See her International Mercado proposal to creat jobs in the Latino and other communities) and grow & retain existing ...businesses.She will target all three economic development steps and will supervise the agencies and departments involved in business regulation and economic development. On Cinco De Mayo Latinos are United For Eileen.

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      Eileen believes that enhancing Portland’s business community requires that the City take three steps to advance economic development

      ...and more than just those three. Here's the full jobs plan.

      Full disclosure: My firm built Eileen Brady's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    The experience argument holds no water with me after all "inexperienced" Bud Clark was a vastly superior mayor to "Experienced" Frank Ivancie so glad I voted for Eileen in this go round

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      Alan -

      Where is the Frank Ivancie in this race? As I remember him, almost anyone would have been an improvement.

      Like Brady, Ivancie was the favorite of the business community. If you are looking for the next Bud Clark, she doesn't really look like it. But then, I suppose there isn't anyone who does.

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