Jo Ann Hardesty, 59, is a central figure in Portland's ongoing struggle to enact meaningful police reforms. So when Mayor Charlie Hales announced last month that he had reached a deal with the Portland Police Association for a new union contract, the former state representative offered a piercing critique.
Here are five things you may not know about Hardesty, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP.
Hardesty was one of the first women ever to serve aboard a U.S. Navy ship. Hardesty, who left the Navy in 1981 as a personnelman third class, served on the USS Samuel Gompers, a ship that supplied destroyers in the late 1970s.
Hardesty was urged to run for the Oregon House in 1996 by the woman she replaced, Avel Gordly. Gordly called Hardesty to let her know she was running for the Oregon Senate. "My first response was, 'Oh my God, who's going to represent me?'" Gordly's answer? "You."
Hardesty was a beneficiary of Oregon's short-lived limits on campaign contributions. Oregon voters in 1994 approved putting $100 limits on campaign contributions to state lawmakers. Those rules were in effect for the 1996 election, when Hardesty beat Bill Stewart, a white small-business owner. The Oregon Supreme Court overturned the limits in 1997.
She's contemplating running for the Portland City Council. Hardesty was elected three times to the Oregon House, but left in 2001 to run unsuccessfully for the job of Multnomah County chair. She says she would be "very tempted to run" for Portland City Council in the next cycle.
She'd consider working for Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler. Hardesty says she believes change comes from the outside and the inside, and would welcome the opportunity if he signaled he was interested in fundamental reforms. "I think that would be a brilliant move on his part," she says, "but he has not had the conversation with me."