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Photo Courtesy of Oregon State Archives

  • Oregon State Representative, 1972-1990.
  • Speaker Pro Tempore, 1981-1983.
  • Speaker of the House, 1985-1990.
  • Mayor of Portland, 1993-2005.

About Mayor Katz

Vera Katz became involved in politics in Oregon working for presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. After Kennedy’s assassination, she lobbied in Salem on behalf of the many civil and worker rights that he stood for.

In 1972, Katz ran for elected office and won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. The iconic 1973 legislative session had a committed bi-partisan group of elected women and men who worked together to pass the most feminist slate of laws in Oregon’s history. Laws on childcare, family planning, employment, insurance, and prostitution changed the political, economic, and social fabric of Oregon. Katz introduced HB 2930 that would have prohibited “discrimination in employment and certain real property transactions” based on “sexual orientation,” but it was a bit too ahead of its time and failed by two votes.

Katz became the first female chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, but gained respect and notice through her handling of the committee’s work. In 1985, Katz ran to become the first woman speaker of the house. Her election as speaker was anything but assured, but skilled politicians “didn’t anticipate that we were going to be fairly well organized…nobody leaves the room until the Speakership is decided…” Their tactics and persistence won the day and her election to speaker in 1985. She held that post for three terms, also a record. 

– Interview recorded February 2, 2016