This article originally appeared in the August 19, 2009 edition of the Portland Observer.
Historic leader takes new job
The Portland Observer
Margaret Carter, the first African American woman elected to the Oregon Legislature, is stepping down after serving nearly a quarter of a century.
Carter will take a position next month as state deputy director for Human Services Programs at the Oregon Department of Human Services, leaving only one African American in the Legislature, Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem.
“I am fortunate, though, to carry forward into my new career my passion for ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens receive the services they need to thrive and prosper,” she said in a statement.
Social services and protecting the most vulnerable have long been issues deeply important to Carter, 73, a Democrat whose Senate district represents all of north Portland and a big part of inner northeast Portland.
She co-chaired the Joint Ways and Means Committee during the last Legislative session, which played a critical role in writing the state’s budget after being hit with a drastic loss of revenue due to the recession.
Before first being elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1984, Carter worked as a counselor at Portland Community College’s north Portland Cascade Campus. A few years ago she served as president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Portland while serving in the Senate.
Her past legislative accomplishments included work on the Human Services budget subcommittee. She also played a role in passing legislation that withdrew state controlled investments in South Africa during apartheid, and helped get Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday observed as a holiday in Oregon.
Her new position will pay $121,872.
Because Carter resigned midway through her 4-year term, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will be responsible for appointing a replacement from a list of candidates submitted by the local Democratic Party.
So far Rep. Chip Shields, D-Portland, is the only person to openly express interest in the position.
In a statement, Shields praised Carter for her accomplishments, and said that he was a good fit for her seat since the districts of the two legislators overlap. Shields also stressed that he has been on the forefront of many of the same issues Carter has championed throughout her legislative career.
Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, who also represents part of Carter’s district, said she will continue her work in the House where she serves as a member of the House leadership and as co-chair of a crucial budget subcommittee working to protect public services.
“Senator Carter is a remarkable leader,” Kotek said. “Through her many years of public service to north and northeast Portland and the entire state, she has had an unfailing commitment to strong human services programs and making sure the most vulnerable Oregonians were never left out of state budget conversations.”
Sue Hagmeier, spokesperson for the Multnomah Democratic Party, said that no one besides Shields has expressed interest for Carter’s seat.
“I’ve heard noises,” she said. “But I wouldn’t say they’re even at the level of rumor.”