Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler adds former Mayor Sam Adams to his staff

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Jan. 28, 2021 10:30 p.m. Updated: Jan. 29, 2021 12:16 a.m.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has officially brought on former Mayor Sam Adams to serve as director of strategic innovations and advance the mayor’s priorities for his second term, namely homelessness, public safety, and livability issues.

“Sam’s knowledge of Portland City Hall and his track record of action and getting things done is much welcomed,” Wheeler said in a statement officially announcing the hire Thursday. “He’s innovative, smart and energetic. He will play an important role in advancing my second term priorities.”

Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, center, pictured in 2020.

Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, center, pictured in 2020.

Courtesy of Sam Adams

The Oregonian first reported earlier this month that Wheeler’s office was considering bringing on the former mayor.


Wheeler also announced Thursday he would be bringing on Dr. Markisha Smith, head of the city’s office of equity and human rights, as his special advisor on racial justice and equity. He said Smith “will help us center equity” in his second term while continuing on in her current role.

“With this new role, I look forward to helping Mayor Wheeler and City Council further institutionalize equity in the City’s policies and culture to better serve our currently and historically systemically oppressed communities,” Smith wrote in a statement.

Smith will take on her additional duties Feb. 8. Adams will begin work on Monday.

Adams served as the longtime chief of staff to former Mayor Vera Katz, and as a city commissioner before coming into office in 2009 as the first openly gay mayor of a large U.S. city. But his tenure was marred by scandal. After denying rumors that he’d been involved in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old former legislative intern, Beau Breedlove, Adams acknowledged soon after his election as mayor that they had been in a sexual relationship. He said it took place after Breedlove was 18, Oregon’s age of consent.

The attorney general’s office investigated the relationship, but did not charge Adams with any crimes. Adams did not seek reelection.

After his term in City Hall, Adams went on to serve as the executive director of the City Club of Portland before moving to Washington, D.C., to work for an environmental think tank.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Sam Adams was elected Portland mayor in 2008.


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