PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County elected its first female sheriff ever on Tuesday night, voting for Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell to take over the role.
No stranger to public service, she’s spent decades with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, from corrections to her current role as undersheriff. However, as sheriff, she says gun violence will be one of her priorities, an issue that hits close to home for her.
“This is deeply personal to myself and my family,” said Morrisey O’Donnell. “At a very young age, my father was working one of his local businesses and a 15-year-old boy walked into his business and shot him in the chest.”
Her dad survived, but she says it rocked the community of her hometown of Clatskanie. As she’s since talked with other families and victims impacted by gun violence, she says it’s made her want to do more when it comes to community violence.
“When people don’t feel safe in our community, that is concerning to me,” said Morrisey O’Donnell. “I live and work in this community and I want to do everything I can to better our community and I want people to enjoy Portland and enjoy Multnomah County as a whole again and feel safe, wherever they are.”
Another issue raised by residents of Multnomah County is the homeless population. When asked for her plans, Morrisey O’Donnell says taking a service approach with the homeless community would be the best way to get them the resources they need — whether that’s housing, behavioral health services or addiction treatment.
“Building bridges with our houseless community members, breaking down those barriers, figuring out which resources do people need. Each person is unique and each individual has unique needs in how they can access safe housing,” said Morrisey O’Donnell. “I think it’s about looking at where we are today and where do we see the gaps. Filling in those gaps and the appropriate services and appropriate expertise to be able to help navigate mental health and addiction challenges, along with ensuring people have a safe place to live.”
Morrisey O’Donnell was endorsed by Sheriff Mike Reese, but says her tenure won’t necessarily be a continuation of Reese’s policies. Instead, she hopes to improve on areas that she feel is needed it. She says when it comes to fixing crime, they need enough deputies on the streets, and plans to not only use social media for national outreach but also community relationships to reach locals.
“Really connect with a large group of people and a diverse group of people,” said Morrisey O’Donnell. “Connecting with community groups such as WordIsBond to talk to youth that may not have thought public safety would be a profession they would explore, building those bridges with our local community as well as nationally.”
Becoming the first woman elected to the job in the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office’s 168-year history, Morrisey O’Donnell says she hopes to inspire others not to limit themselves and set high goals.
“I really feel like this is an opportunity to be able to connect with our youth, connect with our young women and young girls and really show that this is a journey, but set your goals high and you can achieve them,” said Morrisey O’Donnell. “I want to do that in our community and in our organization because I (want promotional opportunities and career development opportunities for everyone in our organization. I want people to feel like have access to those and that we are helping them build a path to be successful.”
Morrisey O’Donnell will officially take over as sheriff on Jan. 1, 2023, but in the meantime, says she plans to continue her work as undersheriff and hopes to use the next seven months to reach out to those in the community and build on those plans for tackling violence and other issues.