Dear walking and rolling advocates,

Serving as the Executive Director at Oregon Walks is both an honor and incredible joy. I recently reread the inaugural letter I sent to Oregon Walks membership. In it I wrote: “I am humbled by the commitment of our staff, volunteers, board, donors, and supporters; and I am so excited to join this team.” This statement is as true today as it was then.

Which is why I am feeling a mix of bittersweet emotions as I write to inform you, I have recently accepted the Executive Director position at PATH~Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, a biking and walking advocacy organization in Hawaii. My family has deep ties to Pacific Islands, and Chris and I are looking forward to being closer to our son, Akeke.

I have learned so much from each of you as we have engaged in the work to center walking as climate, health, transportation, and social justice solution.

During my tenure at Oregon Walks, we:

  • shifted our focus to more clearly and directly center racial equity in our work,
  • engaged hundreds of community members in giving feedback to the PedPDX plan,
  • served on a myriad of high-stakes transportation committees, including the Rose Lane Steering Committee, the Getting There Together (GTT) Steering Committee, and the Vision Zero Taskforce (to name a few),
  • co-hosted our first Sunday Parkways walking-only section, Next Level Health Walk, celebrating Portland’s Black communities,
  • responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by providing walking kits to our partners serving historically underserved communities,
  • brought awareness and attention to the fact that Portland needs to #clearthecorners,
  • testified on a variety of important transportation investments and projects, including repeatedly saying “NO!” to the Rose Quarter I-5 expansion and saying “Yes!” to jurisdictional transfer and the Fixing our Streets extension, and “Yes!” to the “Let’s Get Moving” Measure 26-218.

This work could not have happened without the dedication of every staff person, board member, partner, volunteer, donor, and supporter. Each of you have taught me the importance of collectivism and collaboration. I am so grateful to you, or excited for the future of Oregon Walks. Two ways you can help Oregon Walks continue this journey: sign up to be a monthly donor (if you haven’t already:) AND share the Oregon Walks’ job listing, Learn More here, for a new Executive Director.

I will stay on part-time at Oregon Walks until a new executive director is in place, likely the end of January, 2021. I hope you can join us at the Oregon Walks’ annual *now virtual* membership meeting (everyone is welcome!) on Thursday, October 15th at 4:30PM. RSVP here.

With deep respect and admiration…

Jess Thompson
Executive Director
Oregon Walks

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