Commissioner Lori Stegmann
As a woman, I am constantly reminded of what it is like to feel unsafe. I often plan to do my errands during daylight hours, am mindful of the lighting in parking lots, and never put myself in a position where I could be surprised. To a degree, there are factors that I can control, or at the very least prepare for and come to expect. What I can’t control are my almond shaped eyes, my dark skin and black hair.
With the rise of race-related crime and harassment in our communities, I am often grateful that my biracial daughter looks more like her white father, than her Korean mother. With white nationalism on full display, it seems to have given racists extreme license to threaten, harass, and attack AAPI community members. When I saw footage of an Asian man being stabbed from behind in New York, the world closed in on me a little bit more. I want to believe that people are inherently good, but occurrences like this make it harder. Sadly, like many others in our community I realize there is no measure of protection I can take to guarantee my safety or that of my family. So while assurance on a personal level is difficult, I turn to my responsibility as an elected official and ask myself what role I can personally play to make the world a little bit better for our communities.
As the first Asian and Korean to ever serve on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, I feel a deep sense of responsibility not only to represent the Asian community, but to also include the voices of those who have been marginalized into the work that I do at the County. Showing up, listening, and learning from the lived experiences of our many residents provides knowledge that allows me to better represent them. And in turn, enables me to advocate for and implement specific programs and policies that help protect and uplift our diverse communities.
I make every effort to encourage and promote more BIPOC individuals to run for office and be appointed to leadership positions. I try to provide educational opportunities through social media, newsletters, and events like my monthly East County Issue Forum to address things like implicit bias and racism. While education is incredibly important, equally important is providing a space for meaningful conversations about funding, access to resources, and building capacity in our systems that were constructed through decades of systemic oppression.
Much of my work at Multnomah County is focused on increasing housing stability and reforming our criminal legal system. Reducing incarceration rates and diverting community members out of the criminal legal system helps to disrupt generations of trauma, instability, and negative interactions with our systems. These are necessary steps to address the systemic and institutional racism that permeates our country.
One of my goals is to develop a multicultural center in East County. So many well-deserving non profits’ greatest need is physical space to do their work. I am exploring ideas of how local government can help build the social capital of our diverse communities that can serve as the foundation of our economic recovery. Economic mobility is critical and will dictate how fast and how far our communities can recover. I am looking for partners who understand that if we build strong communities, we can build economic stability.