PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tributes began pouring in following the death of Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish on Thursday. The 61-year-old veteran lawmaker succumbed to a 2-year battle with stomach cancer just days after announcing he would resign from the council.
Some of the conventional wisdom about Nick Fish will rightly view him as a true public servant and a good friend. But those attributes miss some of who Nick Fish was.
Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury
For Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Nick Fish was a real talent as a public servant who always had a plan of action before even comitting himself to an issue.
“He didn’t do anything haphazardly. He didn’t do anything on the spur or on the fly,” Kafoury told KOIN 6 News. “He always thought things through and that’s why he has such a long list of accomplishments.”
Their paths often overlapped professionally on issues such as homelessness. Kafoury said Fish respected opinions of others even when they were not always in line with his. He was never demeaning and rarely allowed differences to become personal.
He cared about issues of all sizes, from finding a new home for the mothballed Janzen Beach carousel to finding homes for the homeless in our community.
“At a time when other politicians and elected officials didn’t have this on their radar he did,” she said. “Every major piece of legislation around housing and homelessness in the past 12 years had his fingerprints on it.”
Metro Councilor Sam Chase
Metro Councilor Sam Chase — a former chief of staff for Fish — is one of many who were shocked and saddened to learn of Fish’s passing. He said Fish was passionate about the climate crisis, affordable housing and developing strategies to fight homelessness.
“He stayed engaged and I knew that was really the best thing for him because that really gave him lifeblood; that energy and enthusiasm to make a difference in our community,” said Chase.
Portland Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Jamie Klum recalled Fish’s official visits to the fire station as he worked to develop a relationship with the community and crew.
Klum said Fish had a way of making people around him feel at ease.
“When Commissioner Fish and his family came in — they are such wonderful people — they took the tension down and we had a true conversation,” said Klum. “He asked questions but he made you feel included and embraced.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler
- We are mourning the loss of Commissioner Nick Fish. All of us who knew Nick understood how much he cared about his family, the City and his team. Nick was a dear friend and a trusted public servant. He fiercely advocated for all Portlanders and always led with compassion, wit and intelligence. He was instrumental in shaping Portland for the better and I often sought his advice and guidance. We are especially thinking about his family and his team – as we continue to grieve his passing. Nick was taken too early. He will be dearly missed.
- My heart breaks for Portland & all of @CommishFish’s friends, family, & constituents. He dedicated his life to the city & it was an honor to work w/ him on issues like housing, which was close to his heart & impacted 1000’s of families. He left a great legacy & we will miss him.
- Today our community lost a once-in-a-generation public official. Commissioner Fish just kept showing up to better the lives of Portlanders. His heart for people was huge, his energy enormous, and tenacity rare. Nick – it was a privilege to serve with you.
- The passing of @CommishFish is a profound shock. Nick was a dedicated public servant who continued his service as he waged a courageous battle against cancer. We honor that service as we mourn his loss. My deepest sympathy to his family.
- Nick Fish was the definition of what public service should be. He served the community of Portland honorably and put people above ideology. His loss will be felt deeply and I will miss him greatly. My thoughts are with the Fish family during this time.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici
- I’m devastated to hear about the death of Portland Commissioner Nick Fish. Nick was one of the kindest and most authentic people I’ve known. Although he came from a long line of prominent New York politicians, Nick was truly humble. He worked hard and was passionate about our community, especially on issues of housing and homelessness, the environment, and parks. He was a strong advocate for the arts, and I’ll always remember when he joined me for a tour of the Portland Art Museum with the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Nick occasionally entertained me with stories about his time working with former Congressman Barney Frank. But most importantly, Nick loved his family. I hope Patricia, the children, and the extended family are comforted by memories of happy times together with this remarkable man. Rest in peace, Nick.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum
- I just feel sad today — incredibly sad — at the loss of our good friend, “Commish” Nick Fish. In his poignant “resignation” letter three days ago, Nick said, “The future is bright.” I’m sure he believed that. But today our skies are cloudy, suffused with a terribly empty feeling in the hearts of everyone who knew and loved him — and of the thousands of Portlanders who benefited from his deep commitment to them. We all grieve that such a bright light of our community has been extinguished so prematurely. Read Ellen Rosenblum’s full statement here
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
- I’m very saddened to hear of Commissioner Fish’s passing earlier today. I’ve known Nick for decades, and while our time as colleagues on council was briefer than expected, I have always respected his deep commitment and tenacity as a public servant, especially as he managed his illness. I send my deepest condolences to his family and friends as they navigate this time.
Former Mayor Sam Adams on Facebook:
- Rest In Peace my friend. You did good, you did very good. Portland and much more is better for your work. Big hug and support to your family in the face of this terrible loss. I feel lucky to have known you.
- We salute Commissioner Fish who served our city with distinction and honor for many years. Our deepest condolences to his family, staff and friends. He will be greatly missed.
- When @CommishFish was in charge of the fire bureau, he would frequently stop by our stations visit. He continued to visit even after his assignment changed. He was a passionate proponent of civic engagement. He loved Portland. He will be missed.
- Saddened by the passing of Commissioner Nick Fish. He was a lover of soccer and a great supporter and friend of the club. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
University of Portland
- For more than a decade, Commissioner Nick Fish served our city with dignity, vision, commitment and passion. His approach to city hall governance was rooted in what was best for Portland, not just politically relevant or viable. For our University of Portland community, Commissioner Fish was both a friend and fan, especially of our Pilots women’s soccer program. He often honored us with his presence and support, and we will miss him.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner
- During his tenure serving as City Commissioner, Nick Fish was a champion of the people, he cared about the most vulnerable, he loved our city, and he was a fair and steady force in Portland’s City Council. In all my interactions with Commissioner Fish, even when we didn’t agree, he was honorable and a man of his word. What a great loss to our city. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family during this tragic time.