Portland Commissioner Nick Fish dies of cancer at 61

Remembering the celebrated career of this fine man who served in Portland City Hall …

Not long after being elected as Portland City Commissioner in 2008, Nick Fish posed for a photo outside his new office.

Story and East Portland News archive photos by David F. Ashton

After announcing his need to retire as a Portland City Commissioner for health reasons in late December, Nick Fish lost his fight against stomach cancer and passed away on January 2.

According to Sonia Schmanski, who worked in Commissioner Fish’s office, “He passed away peacefully today at home, surrounded by his loved ones. The family wanted me to convey publicly their thanks for all the words of love and encouragement sent to Nick since his resignation. Nick called his 11 years of service on the Portland City Council ‘the great honor of my life’.”

Nick Fish smiles and waves while walking in a past Gateway Area Business Association “Fun-O-Rama” Parade in the Hazelwood neighborhood.

Fish was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2017. On December 31, Fish released a public statement saying that he was no longer able to carry out his work as a commissioner and announced his plan to resign upon the election of a successor.

Born Nicholas Stuyvesant Fish in September 1958, he moved to Portland 1996 after his wife, Patricia Schechter, was offered a teaching position in the History Department at Portland State University. He worked as an attorney at a downtown law firm, primarily in employment law.

At a planting ceremony in Westmoreland Park, Nick Fish paused for a photo with his son.

Rain doesn’t stop Nick Fish from announcing the newest inductee at the Portland Immigrant Statue in Parkrose.

With a lifelong interest in politics and public service, in 2004, Fish ran for a seat on the Portland City Council, but lost in that year to Chief of Staff for Mayor Vera Katz, Sam Adams, who later became Portland’s Mayor.

After newly-elected Commissioner Erik Sten abruptly resigned his post, Fish ran in a special election in 2008, handily winning the position with 61.4% of the vote. He was re-elected to a full four-year term in 2010 by a landslide margin.

Commissioner Fish celebrated a good year for Neighborhood Business District projects at a 2016 Venture Portland party, along with Spirit of Portland Award recipient Richard Kiely.

In the 2018 edition of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, Nick Fish waved to onlookers along the way.

Fish served as Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Housing Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation, and in 2011, beamed with pride when the Parks Bureau was presented the National Gold Medal Award for “Best Park System in the Nation”.

When the Bureaus were reassigned by Mayor Charlie Hales in 2013, Fish became Commissioner of the Portland Bureau of Environment Services and the Portland Water Bureau, and was also placed in charge of the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

On October 22, 2018, not long after having had the Parks Bureau reassigned to his portfolio, Nick Fish commended all who had worked on the major “Oaks Bottom Tidal Restoration Project”.

At the Leach Botanical Garden groundbreaking ceremony for the new Upper Garden project in August, 2019, Nick Fish, once again the Commissioner of Parks, commended the work of Commissioner Amanda Fritz for helping obtain the funding for the project.

At his last press event he covered by East Portland News – the groundbreaking of the Leach Botanical Garden Upper Garden and Tree Walk on August 1, 2019 – Fish said told those assembled how proud he was that the City of Portland had provided some of the funding for the project.

Afterward, he told us, “I’ve loved all of the people and projects at all of the Portland Bureaus I’ve worked with, but my heart is with the Parks Bureau.”

It seemed, to us, typical of the Commissioner that he did not let go of his city responsibilities until what turned out to be the very eve of his untimely death.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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