Think Tank Selects Jefferson Smith as Executive Director

The Oregon Center for Public Policy picks former legislator and mayoral candidate to be its new leader.

Jefferson Smith, a former state representative who lost a high-profile bid for Portland mayor in 2012, will lead the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a left-leaning think tank that helps shape policy in Salem.

The OCPP board was deeply divided over the selection of a new executive director, WW reported in August. Steve Novick, a former Portland city commissioner who lost his bid for reelection to Chloe Eudaly, was the other leading candidate.

Smith will replace current executive director Chuck Sheketoff, who founded the organization 20 years ago. Sheketoff will step down at the end of this year.

Smith "is a visionary leader with a track record of implementing ideas and growing organizations," says OCPP board chair Will Neuhauser in a statement. "He brings communications skills and policy chops that prepare him to succeed in this work."

Smith, who founded and led the Bus Project, a youth voter engagement group,  and later co-founded the radio station XRAY.FM, lost his bid for mayor in 2012 after his behavior, including WW's report that he'd punched a woman in college, became a campaign issue.

A graduate of Grant High School, the University of Oregon and Harvard Law School, Smith served two terms in the Oregon House, representing an East Portland district.

"I'm eager to engage more people to work for economic justice and data-focused policy," Smith said in a statement. "With wealth disparities at historic levels, the need for fact-driven policy has never been more urgent. I'm grateful and humbled to be invited to help."