Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis resigns after 18 years

Multnomah County

Councilwoman Janine Gladfelter will serve as interim mayor

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The mayor of Gresham is stepping down after 18 years amid unprecedented closures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide civil unrest.

Mayor Shane Bemis announced Tuesday on Facebook his resignation will be effective Wednesday, June 17 at 9 a.m. His resignation comes days after both the Gresham police chief and city manager announced their impending retirements.

Bemis — who is also a restaurant owner, husband and father — said he is stepping down as mayor to be able to focus on fighting to keep his business afloat and provide for his family. Bemis said the choice “is the most difficult decision I’ve ever faced.”

His Facebook post reads, in part:

“Our family restaurant has been closed to dining service since March. We were well structured to survive normal and even significant ebbs and flows in business, but nobody in the industry could anticipate or plan for what we currently face. To be honest, I’m fighting for the business to survive.

For months, I’ve tried to balance the pressing daily needs of the City of Gresham with my business and my family. My oldest son just graduated from Gresham High School. He was four-months-old when I was first elected to the City Council. Juggling these challenges is always difficult, but the call to public service has been worth the challenges and sacrifices. At the current moment, facing a pandemic, a rising, powerful, and necessary social justice movement, and the City’s budget woes, all while trying to keep my business afloat, is not tenable.”

Councilwoman Janine Gladfelter will serve as interim mayor.

Bemis said his seat as mayor will be up for election in November. He hopes his friend, Travis Stovall, will take his place or run for City Council. Bemis stated the following:

“Travis is also a black man. I watched Portland Police Chief Jami Resh show courage and leadership last week when she announced that she was stepping aside in recognition that the right leader for this moment was somebody else. As a political leader, it is always tempting to see oneself as the solution to whatever problems we may face. However, when I spend time in self-reflection and consider the entirety of the critical work our city and broader society must address, I need to be willing to say I am not the best solution to these specific problems. It is in that spirit that I publicly urge Travis Stovall to run for Mayor this November, and I endorse him strongly should he choose to do so.

The best possible outcome for our city right now requires a leader like Travis to help navigate our way to a better and more just future, with our strong connections intact on the other end. While I have pushed very hard for public safety reform and new approaches, and believe strongly in this work, this is a time in our nation’s history when we all have to ask how we can best help push the critical causes of change and justice. In that exploration, we must also be open to the idea that doing our best, at times, calls us to not try to lead from the front, making way for new leaders. Now is that time for me.

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