After a three-month national search guided by an outside recruiting firm, the Department of Community Services is pleased to announce Erin Grahek has accepted the position of Division Director of Multnomah County Animal Services.
Erin stepped in as Interim Division Director on July 1. She rose to the top in the recruitment process, all while leading and continuing to bring the County’s mission, vision and values to Animal Services — making the most of what was essentially a day-in, day-out real-time interview process.
She brings 23 years of experience at Multnomah County to her role as Division Director. Before that, she spent 13 years at a skilled nursing facility, starting out in the kitchen, then working as an activities manager for an Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit. She eventually served as a social service coordinator/discharge planner for clients who suffered from strokes and traumatic brain injuries, and finally as Director of Social Services and Director of Admissions.
Erin began her career at the County in a similar fashion — working her way into leadership after starting as a case manager for the Department of County Human Services’ Aging, Disability and Veterans Services Division (ADVSD). She quickly became a program supervisor, overseeing case management staff, before serving as branch manager for ADVSD’s Northeast Portland branch.
As a case manager, she helped determine clients’ eligibility for in-home and community-based services, among other critical resources offered to older adults and people with physical disabilities.
“The common thread — whether it’s working as a case manager in Mid-County or managing programs in branches back in my historic community of North and Northeast Portland, or here at Animal Services — is that this work is what matters to me,” she says. “It is very mission-driven for me.”
Most recently before coming to Animal Services, Erin served as senior manager for ADVSD, charged with management of its Community Services program and an approximately $15 million budget of diverse federal, state, local and private sources, including over a dozen community non-profits. Foundational components of the role include maintaining and developing community relationships and partnerships essential to enhancing services; applying the equity and empowerment lens for decision making and strategic planning; and working to instill trust among staff and partners.
Erin knows the County, its systems and its values.
That depth will serve her as she takes this role amid some historic challenges in the animal welfare industry, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a national shortage in veterinary care staff.
Erin brings the immense management experience and leadership skills that Animal Services needs to continue to work toward our North Star: To provide equitable services to the public and ensure high-quality care for the animals in our shelter.
Her many accomplishments at DCHS include responding to a range of crises, not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic when she worked to ensure clients have the resources they needed to navigate an unprecedented event.
“It was one of the greatest challenges I’ve experienced and you learn the value of critical partnerships with other County divisions, departments and programs,” she said.
Erin has also played a vital role in emergency response to hot and cold weather events, serving as DCHS co-lead for emergency support and collaboration with Public Health Emergency Management, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Multnomah County Animal Services. She helped lead efforts to stand-up emergency cooling and warming centers and work to provide resources for people and pets.
“The meaningful difference that animals make in the day-to-day lives of humans and vice-versa, the relationship between a pet and human are mutually beneficial and we want to continue to grow services and programs that support that,” Erin said.
“We are working on strengthening resources for pets and families, and shift toward community engagement to create successful pet and human families.”
Erin was born and raised in North Portland, where she lives with her husband. Their two adult children live nearby. She is also the happy owner of Vance, a dachshund, Chihuahua mix (also known as a Chiweenie).
In her spare time, she is the captain of a Portland Relay walking team and recently completed the 130-mile Portland to Coast walking relay. Next, she and her team plan to tackle a 48-mile relay race in the high desert outside Bend.
She is also an avid Portland Thorns fan and attends most home games with her 85-year-old dad.
As Division Director of the Animal Services Division, Erin will oversee a $9.8 million budget, nearly 60 full-time employees, and a contingent of loyal volunteers who help care for the animals at our shelter.