Tribal Government & News

Watson named Portland’s equity office director

04.28.2022 Danielle Harrison Tribal members, State government
Lisa Watson


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals staff writer

PORTLAND – Grand Ronde Tribal member Lisa Watson has been appointed to serve as the new Office of Equity and Human Rights director for the city of Portland.

She was selected by Portland Commissioner Carmen Rubio and will begin her new role on June 1, succeeding interim director Jeff Selby, who will move to the deputy director role.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the Office of Equity and Human Rights with the city of Portland,” Watson says. “I thank Commissioner Rubio for the faith and trust placed in me for this role. Prioritizing equity within the city, its bureaus, and for our leadership and employees paves the way for everyone to be able to bring their full humanity to their work.”

Rubio was assigned to oversee the Office of Equity and Human Rights by Mayor Ted Wheeler last month.

“Equity and anti-racism are core values of our city,” Rubio stated in a press release. “They are never just one person’s or one bureau’s responsibility. For Portland to succeed, we need Black, Indigenous, and other Portlanders of Color; LGBTQIA Portlanders, and Portlanders living with disabilities to be able to bring their full selves to their work and to this city. … I know Lisa and Jeff share this attachment, and I’m excited to work with them to see this vision through.”

 Watson has been a Portland community leader for several years. She owned and operated Cupcake Jones for 10 years in the Pearl District, was deputy director at Our House and director of development at Latino Network.

Currently, she is employed as the executive director of the American Leadership Forum of Oregon, a job she’ll be leaving to take the new position with the city.

“Working to build equitable systems, structures and policies can contribute to not just the richness of working within city government, but can add to the pride we all take in living here as Portlanders,” Watson says. “I am excited to work toward building an even more equitable city working with this amazing and skilled team. As a lifelong Oregonian, I look forward to serving the city I love and have made my home."

Over the years, Watson, 55, has served on numerous boards such as the Q Center, Center for Women’s Leadership at Portland State University, Travel Portland and Basic Rights Oregon. She was the first Native American female City Club president and she currently serves on the Spirit Mountain Gaming Inc. Board of Directors.

Her father is Tribal Elder Robert Jones Watson and her mother is Vera Miller. Watson’s aunt is Tribal Elder and Restoration leader Kathryn Harrison. She has two sisters, Tribal members Sandy Watson-Pikl and Roberta Watson; and three brothers, Patrick Watson, Doug Watson and Mike Watson.