Susheela Jayapal, sworn in as Multnomah County commissioner

indica News Bureau –


Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s sister Susheela Jayapal took oath as Multnomah County commissioner, becoming the first Indian-American to hold an elected county office in Oregon.

Jayapal, a former corporate lawyer and longtime community volunteer, won the May 2018 primary to represent north and northeast Portland. She will replace former Commissioner Loretta Smith.

India-born Jayapal ran on a platform that focused on combatting gentrification and homelessness. She is a longtime advocate of education, reproductive rights and social services for seniors and families, according to a statement from the county.

“She ran an incredible race and won outright with 57 percent of the vote. Multnomah County, she will be a strong progressive champion for you!” Democrat Pramila Jayapal, who represents Washington’s 7th Congressional District, had congratulated her sister on winning the May primary.

Multnomah County is one of 36 counties in the US state of Oregon. Its county seat, Portland, is the state’s largest city with a population of about 766,135 residents.

The former general counsel for Adidas America, Susheela Jayapal came to the US at the age of 16. She earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Swarthmore College.

After working for two years as a financial analyst at an investment bank, she went to law school, earning her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

As an attorney, her role stood out during the fiscal crisis of the 1980s when she represented the government in taking on corrupt and negligent bank officials.

She has also made a mark by providing free legal services to people seeking political asylum in the US, and working to improve labor conditions at factories in Southeast Asia.

In an interview to local Oregon Live last year, she had said her first priority was housing, homelessness and she wants to create an ombudsman’s office.

“What I really see and respond to is the effect on communities that have been fractured by these types of displacement. I think we are all worse off when that happens to one of our communities,” Susheela had said.

With Jayapal’s election, the county commission remains all-female and the most diverse in the state, with a Mexican-American member, Jessica Vega Pederson, and Korean-born Lori Stegmann.

Before Jayapal, the first Indian-American to hold elected office in Oregon was Balwant Bhullar, who won a seat on the Fairview City Council in 2008 but stepped down after six months due to health issues.

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