As Chair of Multnomah County since 2014, Deborah Kafoury represents all of Multnomah County, the state’s largest and most populous county, and among its most diverse. She serves as Chief Executive Officer of Multnomah County, leading the organization’s efforts to create a community where anyone who needs help can find it, everyone shares in opportunity and the most vulnerable among us are protected.
Chair Kafoury sets the County’s strategic policy direction and priorities that are aimed at serving the community equitably and effectively, and works closely with the Board of County Commissioners to implement them.
The COVID-19 pandemic and heightened calls for racial justice highlighted Multnomah County’s responsibility to address the myriad systemic inequities that disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous and other people of color, and keep our community from becoming a place where everyone can thrive. Many of Chair Kafoury’s long-held priorities are in line with the County’s role in helping to build a more equitable community: preventing and ending homelessness, creating family stability, providing accessible healthcare to underserved populations, and reducing the use of incarceration while increasing the use of diversion programs.
During her tenure, Chair Kafoury has advanced innovative solutions to the region’s most pressing issues.
Over the last year, Chair Kafoury has overseen Multnomah County’s COVID-19 response. As the Local Public Health Authority and the state’s largest provider of social safety net services, the County’s outreach, resources and leadership have been critical to helping our communities stay as safe and healthy as possible throughout the pandemic. She has also worked to ensure that the County’s response invested heavily in culturally specific and culturally responsive strategies to prioritizes the needs of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.
In the midst of the pandemic response, Chair Kafoury also directed the implementation of two historic voter-approved bond measures. This includes the creation and administration of the Preschool for All program, which will provide free early childhood education for three and four year olds living in the county, as well as the $387 million modernization of Multnomah County’s library system. As the Chair of the Multnomah County Library Board, she will oversee the construction of a new flagship library in east Multnomah County, the expansion and updating of seven branch libraries, and the creation of a central materials handling and distribution center.
In 2020, she spearheaded the passing of a $2.4 billion Supportive Housing Services Measure, a landmark investment to fund the tri-county region’s response to chronic and short-term homelessness. She also co-founded the Joint Office for Homeless Services with the City of Portland, as well as A Home for Everyone, the region’s first community-wide strategy for preventing and ending homelessness that she also helped co-found, which served more than 35,000 people last year.
Chair Kafoury is also currently seeing through the construction of the County’s Behavioral Health Resource Center, which will bring life-saving supports to people experiencing chronic homelessness in downtown Portland. Once open, it will offer a day center, a safe 24-hour shelter, behavioral health treatment and transitional housing.
She has overseen $1 billion worth of new capital projects, including a new Central Courthouse and Health Department headquarters. In both projects, the Chair ensured the prioritization of apprenticeship programs and contracting requirements that open the door for more women, people of color, and veterans to pursue construction careers. As a county commissioner, she led efforts to replace the crumbling Sellwood Bridge. The replacement span earned the Greenroad Silver Certification, making it the first project in Oregon to earn the accolade, and was the highest-scoring project in the world to date.
In partnership with the County’s 6,000 employees, she’s leading a sweeping workforce equity effort to change the organization's recruiting, hiring, retention and other practices to address systemic racism. She’s also leveraged the County’s legal might, suing Big Pharma over opioids and the state of Oregon over its climate crisis response.