Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who has represented the people in North and Northeast Portland since 2019, resigned from the Board of County Commissioners, effective this morning.
Commissioner Jayapal said she intends to run for Congress in Oregon’s Third Congressional District, a seat held by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, who announced Oct. 30 that he would not seek re-election next year.
Commissioner Jayapal’s Board-approved alternate, Jesse Beason, will step in immediately as interim Commissioner for District 2. Beason is the president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Health Foundation that seeks to improve health outcomes and health equity in Oregon and southwest Washington.
Under County rules, the Board of Commissioners is expected to declare the District 2 seat officially vacant at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting and set an election. to fill the duration of the term ending Dec. 31, 2026.
“It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve these past five years,’’ Jayapal said in making her announcement. “We have worked together through a series of unprecedented crises with a shared mission of moving Multnomah County in a more resilient and equitable direction.”
“While the work has been difficult, I have been inspired by you every day - the mission driven, dedicated public servants I have had the pleasure of working with.”
I want to thank Commissioner Jayapal for her five years of service to this County,” said Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “I strongly believe that we cannot have enough people in Congress who understand at the local level the homelessness, drug and mental health crises we are facing – I trust that whoever is elected to represent our community leads with those issues. Susheela has and continues to hold powerful space as a leader, policymaker and advocate for the needs of everyone at Multnomah County, but especially those vulnerable members of the District 2 community and our broader communities. She will be missed, and I wish her well.”
Born in India, Commissioner Jayapal came to the United States at 16 to attend Swarthmore College, graduating with a degree in economics. She earned a law degree at the University of Chicago Law School, and was a litigator in San Francisco and Portland before becoming general counsel at adidas America.
The mother of two children then spent two decades as a volunteer community leader/advocate for a number of community-based organizations in Portland before being elected in 2018 to represent her North and Northeast Portland neighbors starting in January 2019.
Commissioner Jayapal’s service was dominated by the County’s efforts during — and since — the COVID-19 pandemic. She advocated for equitable access to healthcare during the pandemic, and to house and shelter thousands of families and individuals; secured increased wages for frontline contracted workers, supported victims of domestic violence, led on policy changes to improve air quality, and strengthened County services for immigrant and refugee communities. She co-led efforts to identify and mitigate risks from North Portland’s Critical Energy Infrastructure tank farms in the event of a Cascadia earthquake.
Most recently, she secured a federal grant to advance community-led safety solutions in the Cully neighborhood and helped form a tech partnership to improve housing coordination and move more people experiencing homelessness into long-term housing.
The current District 2 staff will continue to serve under interim Commissioner Beason.
“I’m honored to continue the great work of Commissioner Jayapal representing North and Northeast Portland,” said Beason. “The work of the County is vital to the health and well-being of our community in so many ways. I look forward to representing the people of District 2—my home for twenty years—in this capacity. I feel lucky to be retaining Commissioner Jayapal's team so our important work can continue uninterrupted.”
Beason has lived in Portland since he attended Lewis and Clark College more than 20 years ago. He joined the Northwest Health Foundation in 2013, and served as President of the foundation since 2019. Previously he served as Executive Director at Proud Ground, a Senior Policy Director at the City of Portland, and in public affairs at Metro. He lives in North Portland with his partner.
“Jesse has a long track record of strong, community- and equity-driven leadership, and I know he will build on that record at the County,’’ Jayapal said. “I couldn’t be leaving this seat and my constituents in more capable hands.”