Pamplin Media Group – Oregon City appoints its first Color Commission President
Denyse McGriff makes history again by taking a stand with mayoral powers when the mayor is absent
Denyse McGriff of Oregon City was unanimously elected Commission President during the Jan. 5 commission meeting.
“It will be a bit more responsibility, but it shows an ongoing spirit of collaboration among commissioners and that everyone’s opinion is valued,” McGriff said.
McGriff made history with her appointment by city commissioners in March 2019 as the first person of color to serve on the Oregon City Commission, and then received voter support in November 2020 for a full four-year term. Before taking office, she served as Chair of the Oregon City Planning Commission and the McLoughlin Neighborhood Association.
McGriff is retired after working as an urban planner in cities across the state including Tillamook and Oregon City. She spent the last 17 years of her career as a senior project manager with the Portland Development Commission.
“I’m ready to take on that extra challenge, and hopefully my performance as chair of urban renewal has shown my fellow commissioners that I’m ready to be president,” McGriff said.
A year before the Commission President election, in January 2021, Commissioners also unanimously elected McGriff to chair the Urban Renewal Commission. She continues to exercise that role, although the URC may elect a new chair during its upcoming February 16 meeting.
The city charter states that the commission president is to perform mayoral duties in the absence of the mayor, so McGriff will hold city commission meetings when Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith is on vacation. In November 2020, when the former mayor was removed from office, Lyles Smith, as Commission President, took over the process of appointing Advisory Council positions. Mayors and city commissioners can also temporarily declare an emergency, such as during last February’s ice storm, to allocate city resources to the response.
In 2021, Commissioner Rocky Smith took over as commission president, which commissioners said had nothing to do with Lyles Smith’s ability to take on the role and said she had done a commendable job. Oregon City commissioners have traditionally rotated the role of commission president annually to the most senior commissioner who has not previously served in that position.
“I happened to be acting mayor during the last ice storm,” Smith said. “It was an adventure.”
McGriff’s appointment as commission president follows this tradition, as the only other City Commissioner not to serve as president, Adam Marl, served less than a year.
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