By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Openly gay financial consultant Brian Wilson has announced his bid for a seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
“I’ve been considering this for a number of years,” says the first-time political candidate. “I’ve been working and volunteering for the county for a number of years in many capacities, and I would like to bring my skills and experience to the role of Multnomah county commissioner.”
Wilson, a consultant with Intrepid Expeditions, LLC, joins Representative Jules Bailey (D-Portland) in the run for Deborah Kafoury’s seat. As the board’s rules dictate that commissioners must vacate their seat immediately if they file for another political office, Wilson and Bailey could not officially file for candidacy until Kafoury vacated her seat in a bid for Jeff Cogen’s relinquished office of chairperson. In preparation, though, both Wilson and Bailey formed political action committees — and once Kafoury resigns as promised on Oct. 18, the race will be on.
Wilson served on the Portland Housing Advisory Commission from 2010 until this last summer, was a member of the task force that helmed the Sellwood Bridge renovation, and chaired the Charter Review Committee in 2009.
He also chaired the political action committee devoted to passing last May and November’s library levies. “I [am proud of] the work for the library, but not just because I love books and libraries and what they stand for,” he explains. “There was a funding issue — there were flaws on the county level. In fixing these issues, [the levies] had ancillary benefits for the county itself as well as the library.”
“I believe that everyone in our community has value and should be treated with respect and dignity,” Wilson says of his ethos as a leader. “I am not a career politician and would like to participate in the service to our community so that more people can get out of poverty, more children and seniors are protected from illness and scams, and so that every resident in Multnomah County has access to the basic services they need.”
If elected, Wilson intends to pay specific attention to Multnomah County’s mental health system. “Mental health services are at the crossroads of all the other major impacts we see to the social service system,” he notes. “The fact is that I don’t think anyone in Multnomah County thinks the mental health system is working properly as it is. There are some amazingly good people working for Multnomah County in the field of mental health, certainly, but we can definitely do a better job. If a commissioner wants to focus on that as something of importance to the community, I feel that it will bring good things to bear.”
While Wilson makes no secret of his orientation, he feels that his sexual identity is secondary to his proven track record of leadership and vision for Multnomah County. “I’m not running to be a gay candidate; I’m running for a lot of reasons, but also just happen to be gay,” he explains. “I think our community doesn’t necessarily think of that as a mark of distinction any longer, as we’ve come a long way in Multnomah County. I think it’s great that I can run in a contest like this as an openly gay man, and I hope it won’t impact my run negatively.”
Ultimately, Wilson values the support of the queer community along with his numerous other backers in Multnomah County. “I’ve had support from a wide range of people, not just the gay community,” he notes. “Just about everyone I talk to thinks it’s great that people are running for office that are interesting, qualified, and bring skills to the table. I hope I do have the support of the gay community, and I’ll do what I can to earn it.”