Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced Friday that she will not seek reelection and will retire at the end of her current term on the City Council.
Fritz, in her third term as a commissioner, is known as hardworking, principled and detail-oriented.
She says one of the things she has enjoyed most about her time in office is personally responding to hundreds of thousands of emails from her constituents.
“I really appreciate the people of Portland. We’re very passionate people and we care about a lot of different things,” she said. “It matters that people participate.”
She was first elected to the City Council in 2008, winning the seat vacated by Sam Adams when he ran for mayor.
A psychiatric nurse, neighborhood activist and planning commission member, she won her seat with the help of Portland’s original attempt at public campaign financing.
Her political career outlasted the system that helped get her into office. Voters repealed the so-called voter-owned elections system in 2010, after a fraud and misspending by other candidates.
Fritz continued to be a staunch supporter of public campaign financing, convincing her colleagues to adopt a new system, dubbed “Open and Accountable Elections,” in a narrow vote.
That system awards public matching funds to candidates who agree to not take large contributions, or corporate and PAC cash. It’s set to launch in the 2020 election cycle.
Fritz says she’s announcing her retirement so early for the good of that system.
By creating an open seat, she hopes to encourage a larger field of candidates to run in 2020. The primary would take place May 19 next year.
“I am announcing now in the hope that many worthy candidates will use the public campaign finance resources in the Open and Accountable Elections program,” she said. “I want to open the door for someone else to be the voice of Portlanders in my place.”
Fritz’s also hopes by announcing she will not run — and pledging to refrain from endorsing any candidates — she can convince her colleagues to allow her to continue to oversee the program.
“Because I won’t have a conflict of interest, I won’t be using the program myself, I would very much like to make sure it gets the attention it needs, and in this office, it will,” she said.
The program was placed directly under Fritz’s oversight after the city auditor refused to run it. It’s set to move to the Office of Management and Finance in July. The council will discuss its future in a work session on April 11.
Fritz will leave a council that’s politics have shifted significantly from the one she joined. In 2009, she was the only woman on an all-white council. Today, she serves alongside Chloe Eudaly and Jo Ann Hardesty, two more candidates who parlayed their records as activists into successful grassroots campaigns.
Commissioner Nick Fish jointed the council the same year she did, and the two have forged a close relationship.
“Amanda’s service has been characterized by a deep commitment to equity, access to government, good governance, and reform. It has been an honor to serve with her,” he said.
During Fritz’s second term, her husband, Steve Fritz, was killed in a head-on crash on his way to work at the Oregon State Hospital.
Fritz had not intended to seek a third term, but his sudden death upended her plans. She thanked her constituents for their outpouring of support and chose rededicate herself to her work, using part of a life insurance payment to help fund her re-election campaign.
Fritz went on to champion state legislation to install crash barriers to improve the safety of highways in Oregon.
“We have shared a number of personal milestones,” Fish said. “Nobody has been more supportive of my struggle with cancer, and I traveled to Salem with her on what was probably the toughest day of her life.”
In recent years, Fritz has cast a number of critical “yes” votes on issues that divided the council, including approving a controversial contract with the police union under Mayor Charlie Hales. This year, she joined Hardesty and Eudaly to withdraw the city from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Eudaly’s terms also end in 2020, setting up two potentially fierce campaigns next year.
Fritz’s accomplishments as a legislator range from the esoteric — for example, a recent ordinance she sponsored protects the civil rights of atheists — to policies that have profoundly reshaped city priorities.
She sponsored legislation that sets aside 50% of the city’s one-time budget surpluses for core infrastructure maintenance in parks, transportation and emergency preparedness and helped create the independent Portland City Budget Office. She also championed a paid sick leave policy for city workers.
“Amanda’s service has been characterized by a deep commitment to equity, access to government, good governance and reform,” said Commissioner Nick Fish, who spent a decade serving alongside Fritz. “It has been an honor to serve with her.”
Fritz currently oversees the Water Bureau and the Office of Equity and Human Rights. She said her goals for her remaining time in office include working on the city’s equity initiatives, developing a program to help fund the city’s maintenance backlog, and putting protections for the Bull Run watershed in the city’s charter.
“And then, I am looking forward to retiring and sitting in my back yard with my cat watching the wildlife,” Fritz said.