Outer East Portland activist bids adieu

Discover why Spirit of Portland awardee David Hampsten is leaving town, and learn his thoughts about the area’s ongoing needs …

Members from the community gather to wish David Hampsten, well as he prepares to depart outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

If he’d had his way, outer East Portland activist and volunteer David Hampsten would have slipped out of town without notice.

But, when word got around of his planned departure, friends and associates threw him a going-away party at the East Portland Neighborhood Office on the evening of November 20.

David Hampsten listens while another volunteer compliments his activism.

“It’s true,” Hampsten told East Portland News. “I’ll soon to be moving to Greensboro, North Carolina.

“The fact is I cannot afford to live here anymore,” Hampsten said. “I’ve been unemployed for about seven years.”

Hampsten said his degrees in Geography and Planning helped him get a job with the Portland Bureau of Transportation – but for about six years, he worked there only as a GIS Geographic Information Systems Technician.

After spending a year in Grand Forks, North Dakota, as a planner and as a transit manager, he moved back to Portland and worked for six months as an assistant planner, dealing with City Code, in the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability.

People who work for a governmental bureau or agency tend to be pigeonholed into the position for which they were hired, Hampsten remarked. “They’re not allowed to branch out into other kind of kinds of work for which they were educated and have skills.”

Taking a break, David Hampsten samples a slice of German chocolate cake served at the celebration.

So, he volunteered for the last seven years in outer East Portland, with the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, the East Portland Action Plan, and East Portland Neighbors, Inc.

“The wonderful opportunity I’ve had in the last seven years as a volunteer, is that I’ve been able to do the kind of planning work that I dreamed of doing as a Bureau planner,” Hamsten explained.

“Also I’ve been able to do other kinds of work related to economical development, and housing issues that – quite frankly – most people I know in the planning profession never have an opportunity to do. So, it’s been very enlightening and liberating and inspiring.”

Making a point, David Hampsten says he’s personally grown, from his volunteer work.

Much of the positive results of his work has been accomplished by a group effort, Hampsten observed. “I do thank all the people with whom I’ve worked to get things implemented and funded.

“It has been a tremendously good experience working with many diverse people, many of whom have completely disagreed with me, and I with them,” Hampsten acknowledged. “But working through these issues is been helpful to my personal career development, and for my personal growth.”

Projects on which he’s worked over the years have resulted in about $50 million of funded improvements for area; some $20 million of which have actually been built so far.

At the 2013 Spirit of Portland Awards ceremony, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman presented the “Independent Spirit” award to David Hampsten. East Portland News archive photo

In 2013, Hampsten was given the “Independent Spirit” Spirit of Portland Award. [CLICK HERE to see coverage of that ceremony.]

“I view the Spirit of Portland Award as an appreciation from others – others nominate those who are given this award. I still value getting the award as a ‘gift’ from the people with whom I work.”

Offered the opportunity to present parting thoughts, Hampsten said, “I hope people in East Portland continue to move forward collectively to make improvements.

“I would be happy to come back to East Portland if I was able to get a job as a full-time advocate and transportation planner for East Portland,” Hampston added. “I’d be happy to work here, I could [then] afford to live here in East Portland.”

The wording on this cake says it all, for many outer East Portland people.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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