"Citizen Sam" is back in the Rose City.
After returning from the nation's capital, former Portland Mayor Sam Adams has been making the rounds of polite society, sparking rumors that the 56-year-old may be seeking a leadership role at a local institution… or even mulling another shot at a political career.
His latest reintroduction happened during the Q Center's annual fundraiser, where Adams took home the prestigious Supernova Award for his service to the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.
"The welcome back has been really warm and wonderful," said Adams, who served one term as mayor from 2009 to 2012.
"This is a community I love, and like a lot of people I'm worried about it. So I'm going to do everything I can as citizen Sam to help tackle the issues we face," he continued.
Adams, the first openly-gay mayor of a major U.S. city, faced a firestorm of controversy during his term in office for a consensual relationship with a state representative's legislative intern. The Oregon Attorney General later reported finding no evidence of inappropriate sexual conduct before the intern, Beau Breedlove, reached the age of consent.
Adams' reputation appeared to survive the scandal — as he was named executive director of the City Club of Portland, and two years later was hired as director of U.S. climate initiatives at a global environmental nonprofit.
That all changed in November, 2017, when Adams was accused of sexual harassment by one of his former aides, Cevero Gonzalez. Though City Hall ultimately declined to investigate, saying too much time had passed, Adams abruptly left his position with the World Resources Institute by the end of the year.
In an interview at the gala, Adams said he supports the #MeToo movement but also said that his "accuser had to backtrack." Adams returned to Portland two months ago in order to take care of a sick family member, and said he hasn't even thought about running for office.
Lately, however, he has been spotted scrubbing street signs. Might that be intended as a metaphor?
"I've been cleaning graffiti, I think, since I was campaign manager for [former Portland mayor] Vera Katz," Adams told the Tribune. "Like so many other issues our city faces, we all can have a part in making things better."
More than 600 people attended the Q Center event, held Sunday, Nov. 3 in the ballroom of the downtown waterfront Marriott hotel, with the who's who audience including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
The Q Center, which was co-founded by Adams as a city commissioner, is raising funds for an ongoing renovation of its Mississippi Avenue building. Among its many services, the nonprofit hosted a large town hall in February in order to address concerns surrounding a series of reported hate crimes.
Executive Director Cameron Whitten said Sunday's event "celebrated the progress that we've made" and recognized "the progress that we need to continue to make."
"On a daily basis, our community faces the threat of hatred, censorship, violence and exclusion," Whitten said. "Q Center saves lives."
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)