Commissioner Sharon Meieran was sworn in for her second term Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 as the representative of Multnomah County’s First District serving northwest, inner southeast, and southwest neighborhoods from Sauvie Island to Hillsdale and Riverdale.
Commissioner Meieran was re-elected to the Board of County Commissioners in May 2020 following a term marked by committed work on behavioral health, housing and homelessness, and criminal justice reform.
As an emergency physician, Commissioner Meieran was drawn to the County for its roles in public and behavioral health. At the beginning of her term, she immediately set out to transform the County’s behavioral health system, consulting with community members, those with lived experience, County staff and partners to re-envision how people are served. The results of that have helped inform the County’s legislative agenda and underscored the need for the downtown Behavioral Health Resource Center.
“From the beginning, Commissioner Meieran used her expertise to help transform our system of care,” interim Health Department Director Ebony Clarke said. “As a frontline physician, she has a deep understanding of the interconnected issues facing our community. That perspective is so important as we navigate today’s most pressing public health and mental health challenges. Because of her commitment, Commissioner Meieran has been key to raising accountability in our system and pushing us to new heights.”
Health accomplishments from her first term include lending her support to the County’s litigation against pharmaceutical companies due to their role in the opioid epidemic, pushing the state to raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco to 21, and supporting the purchase and renovation of the Bushong Building in downtown Portland to help prioritize services for people with mental illness who are experiencing homelessness. She led a deep systems analysis of Multnomah County’s mental health system and hosted a youth mental health forum that she called one of the most informative and important events of her service.
Her experience in the emergency room has also informed her work on housing and homelessness as the commissioner serving on the A Home For Everyone Executive Committee alongside Chair Kafoury. Over the last four years, she has advocated for supportive housing, alternatives to shelter, and upstream interventions to change the direction of people’s lives.
“When I first ran for office, I felt that my background working on the frontline in healthcare would inform my policy work as a Commissioner. I could, truly, never have imagined how connected these roles would be,” Commissioner Meieran said. “Continuing to do the work that inspired me to run for office in the first place keeps me grounded, and has provided invaluable insight to complement my role at the County.”
As a voice for equity and accessibility, Commissioner Meieran has also helped lead the County’s effort to bridge the digital divide in Multnomah County. Beginning in Fall 2019, she helped lead the County’s effort to explore the feasibility of municipal broadband. The results of that study revealed promising opportunities for Multnomah County and its partners to ensure affordable, reliable high-speed internet access for all residents.
Staff note Commissioner Meieran’s enthusiasm for new issues, and willingness to respond personally to the hundreds of emails from constituents she receives. “She does not shy away from difficult conversations and truly walks the talk of being accessible to the community she serves,’’ says Renee Huizinga, her chief of staff. "She carries a deep sense of responsibility to her role as a commissioner, and I see this reflected in the way she approaches her work for Multnomah County."
Commissioner Meieran called out several priorities for the term ahead, including implementing a regional supportive housing services measure; continuing to explore accessible broadband access; further transforming behavioral health, including more revenue to support critical services; and continuing to reimagine community safety.
“Moving into my next term, I’m excited for us to continue transitioning from crisis mode to planning for our future,” Commissioner Meieran said. “To continue the important work of the County, which began prior to COVID but disparities highlighted and exacerbated by the crisis, highlighted the even greater need for essential services and planning proactively for the future.”
As she was sworn in by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Nan Waller, Commissioner Meieran expressed gratitude for her family, her colleagues and community members for inspiring her and encouraging her to do meaningful work.
“I am grateful for so many people who have inspired, supported, and worked with me during my first term,” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said. “Multnomah County staff, volunteers, and leaders. My colleagues on the Board, as well as City, State, and Federal leaders. Community leaders and engaged constituents - the people who write to me and call me and tell me about their lives, who offer ideas, who ask questions and voice concerns, and who so often make my day, make me think outside the box and challenge me to venture outside my own realm of experience.”