Talking with Ted Wheeler, Our First Portland-Born Mayor Since WWII
So you’re in your hometown. What kept you here?
I don’t feel old, but I’m old enough now to remember log rafts going down the Willamette River, and when the largest employers in town were all wood products companies. It was a much smaller, folksier town, for sure. That being said, I have no great nostalgia for the way Portland was in the ’70s and early ’80s. By the time I graduated high school I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of here because it seemed too provincial. But Portland is anything but that now.
What makes Portland special?
If you go into any institution in the city, you’ll see people with tattoos and piercings, and people with suits and ties. Maybe what we share in common is a sense of openness and inclusion and a desire to interact with people who aren’t the same as we are. We’re interested in maintaining and improving our environment. Not all cities care about that. I just think the people here are particularly open-minded, and that’s something I appreciate very much.
Why do you think Portland is attractive?
In part, it’s because we have a great and rapidly diversifying economy. In part it’s because the industries growing here—tech or health care or something else—draw from a talent pool that is national and international. People come here to experience the outdoors, the arts, restaurants, culture. It’s an easy city to live in, relatively speaking.
Any advice to newcomers?
Show up hungry. I travel all over the country. I go to the “it” cities, the “now” cities. Uniformly, I find their restaurants to be completely overrated compared to what we have here in Portland. And that’s at all price points. You can go to a food cart and for a couple of bucks get a meal that would pass as a gourmet meal in other communities.