Commissioner Amanda Fritz bids farewell to public life

See what this elected official, who frequently met with outer East Portland groups, says about her time on the Portland City Council – and, about her future plans …

While campaigning to become a Portland City Council Commissioner, Amanda Fritz, R.N. met folks coming to the 2008 Alberta Street Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

As 2021 began, the City of Portland lost a calm and reasoned voice at Portland City Hall, as long-time Commissioner Amanda Fritz retired from public life, after not seeking reelection.

When asked why Commissioner Fritz was attending some event – be it involved with parks or nature areas, business associations, or identity groups – her response was consistent: “I was invited to come, and here I am!”

Days before she left office, Commissioner Fritz gave an interview with East Portland News about her time in office.

Learns lessons from her first campaign
“I first started thinking about it while walking the picket line during the 2001-2 OHSU nurses’ 56-day strike; and. I ‘found my voice’ in that experience,” Fritz began. “And then, in 2006, when the ‘Voter Owned Elections’ program of public campaign financing was adopted, providing a way for someone like me, without lots of affluent friends, to run.”

During her first campaign she campaigned for the seat then held by Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “I ran for the Commission seat, not against Dan; I believe public money should be spent wisely and constructively,” Fritz pointed out.

What she learned from her first campaign was, as she said, “It’s hard to run against an incumbent!” Fritz smiled.

Not long into her first term in office, Commissioner Amanda Fritz posed for this photo.

“I also learned that a broad and detailed knowledge about a wide range of City issues isn’t necessarily helpful in winning campaigns; campaigns need messaging that is simple and repeated often,” she said. “I also learned that having a capable, compatible campaign manager is crucial – so, I’m grateful to Ellen Miyo Ino in 2008 [successfully running for the seat Commissioner Sam Adams vacated to run for Mayor], Debra Porta in 2012, and for Terri Preeg Riggsby in 2016 for guiding me to wins.”

During her first year in office, “I learned my past experience as nurse, and as a mother, contributed a different, valuable perspective compared with that of the four men on the Portland City Council.

Connecting with outer East Portland

Commissioner Fritz spends a few minutes at an event with long-time outer East Portland parks advocate, Linda Robinson.

We asked why, although she was a longtime Southwest Portland resident, she seemed to take a genuine interest in neighborhoods and businesses here, in outer East Portland.

“I’d collaborated on Parks issues with Bonny McKnight, Linda Robinson, Arlene Kimura, Alesia Reece, Linda Bauer, and other East Portlanders before being elected. Southwest and outer East Portland were the only coalitions with Parks Committees, mostly because neither area had many, and we activists wanted to change that.

At a Parkrose Business Association Holiday event, Commissioner Fritz has a fun moment with magician Bob Eaton.

“The two areas also share the problem of unpaved streets, lack of sidewalks, and other infrastructure,” Fritz pointed out. “Then, in my first couple of months on the Council, we adopted the East Portland Action Plan, and I learned about other challenges in East Portland. Commissioner Nick Fish and I shared a deep commitment to our responsibility to correct the inequities identified in the EPAP.”

Gains experience over 12 years
About her style of public governance, Fritz said she didn’t believe her approach had changed over her dozen years as a Portland City Commissioner.

“But, I hope I’m more skilled now, after twelve years of practice! I still work at listening, learning, doing my homework, and focusing on spending taxpayers’ money wisely, to provide basic services in all 95 Portland neighborhoods,” she commented.

A “favorite City Bureau” of both Commissioners Fritz and Nick Fish, in their portfolios at different times – seen here at a 2012 public City Budget meeting – was Portland Parks & Recreation, they both said.

It was difficult to pick her favorite City Bureau assignment, Fritz said. “It was deeply satisfying to be able to dedicate over $70 million for new parks in East Portland while being Parks Commissioner. There’s so much joy in parks.

“I also loved being in charge of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and the Office of Equity and Human Rights,” Fritz reflected.

While Commissioner Fritz gave numerous awards to community members and organizations, she also received some – as when she was named the “Gateway Person of the Year” in 2011.

We asked about the most challenging issues she’d faced while serving in Portland City government: “Oh gosh, I started in 2009 with the Great Recession, and ended in 2020 with COVID-19: it’s impossible to pick just one!”

This led us into her hopes and aspirations for the City of Portland, as time goes forward.

“I hope the new Council, with the first two-term Mayor this century, will work together to help us ‘Build Back Better’ after COVID,” Fritz commented. “Portland can’t thrive unless everyone, in every part of our city, is safe and supported. Our communities must work together, especially while striving for needed changes.”

Multnomah County Judge Adrienne Nelson administered the oath of office as Commissioner Fritz entered her second term in office.

At least one incoming Commissioner asked Fritz for guidance while preparing to come into office.

“When he asked, one piece of advice I gave Commissioner Dan Ryan was, ‘remember that their urgency is not necessarily your urgency’. People both on city staff, and in the community, often demand answers/action immediately, when in fact, developing solutions to complex problems often takes time and broad engagement,” Fritz said.

“Another is when a reporter – not you, David – sticks a microphone in your face and asks a challenging question, sometimes the best answer in the moment is, ‘I’ll get back to you on that’ – and then you do the work, and get back to them with a much better answer than a reply that’s off-the-cuff.”

Radiantly happy about the new play area in 2018 at Ventura Park, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, is Commissioner Fritz.

Asked who she’d like to publically thank, Fritz’s response was surprising: “David Ashton! I remember meeting you when I first ran, and you taught me not to say ‘out here in East Portland’; but that East Portland is ‘here’ for so many people.  Plus, you’ve never asked questions in a way that caused me to say, ‘No comment’.

“And, I am also very grateful to the staff at CherryWood Village who have been keeping my parents-in-law safe throughout the pandemic,” commended Fritz.

Life after City Hall
Without weekdays and weekends filled with meetings, online and otherwise, Fritz said she looked forward to many activities. “I have a grandchild who is five months old and lives two miles from me, so I plan to do a lot of walking down the hill and back to see her.

“After the vaccine, I hope to resume traveling,” Fritz remarked, with a sparkle in her eyes. “I have a daughter in California and a son and his partner in Chicago, plus my mother in England is still strong and healthy at 90.”

Folks will miss seeing the cheerful smile of Commissioner Amanda Fritz at public events, such as here, in the 2019 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade.

Both as an elected leader, and as a resident, her parting words as she leaves public life were, “Thank you, for all your support and kindness to me over the past thirty years, and the information you’ve shared during my time on the Council that has helped us achieve improvements together.

“Portland is a better place citywide because of the work and advocacy of East Portlanders,” Fritz said.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

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