By Matt Pizzuti, PQ Monthly
Kendall Clawson, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s lesbian deputy chief of staff, has left her job for a new role as executive director of the American Leadership Forum of Oregon, a nonprofit that develops leadership skills and fosters collaboration between notable individuals in government, nonprofits and business.
Clawson, who used to be the executive director of Portland’s Q Center and was recently a PQ Monthly Brilliant Award honoree, was hired to the governor’s office by former Gov. John Kitzhaber at the start of his 2011-2015 term, and stayed with the governor’s office through the first four months of Gov. Brown’s tenure before announcing her new job this May.
“Governor Brown is a really wonderful person,” Clawson said. “What I understand is that jobs in the governor’s office are not permanent, there is an end date. After a little more than four years it was time to do something else. We’re in good hands in Oregon, and it’s important that Governor Brown can pick her own people.”
Clawson added, “She was very gracious about me leaving.”
Clawson said one of the major perks of the new job is its shorter commute—Clawson, from Portland, used to have to drive an hour each way to and from Salem. The American Leadership Forum of Oregon is based in Marylhurst and will soon relocate to Downtown Portland.
“I want to be more engaged in the community in which I live,” Clawson said. “It’s a big thing for me.”
The American Leadership Forum of Oregon is an 18-month leadership course drawing notable people—25 at a time—from business, government and the nonprofit world to work together and learn about issues facing Oregon.
The broader organization has other chapters in several other metro areas around the country, while Oregon’s chapter is the only chapter that encompasses an entire state, and counts former Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Jeana Frazzini of Basic Rights Oregon as alumni. Clawson herself graduated from the class this January.
“When I went through [the program], I spent time in Ontario, Roseburg and Corvallis and learned about the issues facing people in rural or coastal Oregon, Clawson said. “These are the kinds of things that when you’re sitting in your office in Downtown Portland you had no idea were happening.”
Clawson was first hired to Gov. Kitzhaber’s administration as someone who could find qualified women, people of color and LGBTQ people in Oregon to fill seats on various governor-appointed boards and commissions that had historically lacked diversity. The role—as a sort of leadership talent scout with a strong belief in inclusion—set Clawson up to fill a similar role in a position beyond the state government.
“What’s great about this is that it’s still fresh for me,” Clawson said, “and a perfect segue and continuation of what I was doing in the governor’s office. It’s the thing I like to do—connect the dots between people and issues. You run into people all the time who’ve been through the class.”
From the American Leadership Forum’s May 18 announcement:
“Kendall will be leading an especially exciting phase of strategic capacity-building as ALF enters its 30th year of operations in Oregon. The ALF Board of Directors selected Kendall from among a notably strong field of candidates with an eye on renewing ALF’s focus on diversifying and solidifying the organization’s financial base, actively promoting its unique brand among leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors in Oregon, while providing additional support for the programmatic needs of ALF Fellows and Senior Fellows throughout the state.”
Announcing the hiring, ALF Board of Directors Chairperson Michael Alexander stated, “The board of directors is thrilled to welcome Kendall as ALF’s new executive director at a truly pivotal moment in the organization’s history in Oregon. Kendall’s combination of skills and experience, coupled with her well-deserved reputation as a creative and innovative thinker, was precisely the leadership portfolio that ALF Oregon was looking for as it enters its 30th year in Oregon.”