No. 1 Governor Kate Brown
Kate Brown made history when she became the first openly LGBT Governor in the country, but she quickly showed she wanted to be and would be more than a checkmark on the list of “firsts.” She became one of the state’s most active Governors as she promoted equal pay, vaccinations, and many other things which shouldn’t be partisan issues – although conservatives thought otherwise, trying and failing to recall her.
In 2020, Brown continued to take on the state’s biggest problems head on, shrugging off a second recall attempt, and then a third, as she acted against the COVID-19 pandemic, first with cautious measures but eventually with a shelter-in-place order and a moratorium on evictions. She directed efforts to fight devastating wildfires – in part through the Council on Wildfire Response she created in 2019. She sought an end to political violence in Portland and elsewhere – most recently mobilizing the National Guard to be ready for violence on election day.
When State Troopers refused to follow her mask mandate while lunching in Corvallis, she took a personal approach, meeting with the offending Troopers. After the meeting, the troopers’ “Fuck Kate Brown” became a contrite apology from them and from the head of the Oregon State Patrol.
Governor Brown gets things done for Oregon because she clearly loves it.
No. 2 Ted Wheeler
The city of Portland has seen Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations nearly every day since the murder of George Floyd in May – and from the start, Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, fumbled his response, aggravating Portlanders and bringing nationally negative attention to the city.
Trump never shied away from calling out Portland, tweeting on Aug. 30, “Ted Wheeler, the wacky Radical Left Do Nothing Democrat Mayor of Portland, who has watched great death and destruction of his City during his tenure, thinks this lawless situation should go on forever. Wrong! Portland will never recover with a fool for a Mayor….”
Despite the controversy regarding his response to demonstrations, Wheeler recently won re-election, defeating challenger Sarah Iannarone. Looks like the Wheeler show will go on.
No. 3 Naked Athena
A line of Portland police officers in riot gear approached a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters, but stopped short when a naked woman emerged and sat squarely in front of them.
A photo of the back of this woman, coined the “Naked Athena,” went viral, causing discussion about her bold stance across social media and multiple news outlets.
In a Portland podcast Unrefined Sophisticates, Naked Athena identified herself a few days following the protest as a 30-some-year-old non-black person of color and sex worker named Jen. She described her nude act as a form of defiance that felt most natural to her.
“This really feminine place in myself felt provoked and fired up,” she told the Unrefined Sophisticates hosts. “I’m a sex worker, and my nakedness is political. And it is my expression.”
No. 4 Christiana Rainbow Plews
It’s hard to keep fighting a fire when your heart is broken, but Christiana Rainbow Plews did.
Known locally as Chief Rainbow, Plews is the District Chief for the Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District based in Lane County. When the wildfires began, Chief Rainbow took her crew out to protect homes and businesses. Unfortunately, while she was away the flames came to her own homes.
She was able to contact her son, and as they left, her family alerted neighbors, saving lives. Her family made it to safety. However, her two homes burned. Despite suffering personal losses, Plews kept working the fires.
No. 5 Eddy Binford-Ross
17-year-old senior and editor of her high school newspaper The Clypian, Eddy Binford-Ross spent at least three weeks traveling from Salem to Portland in order the cover the Black Lives Matter protests. Citing a need for more coverage and an outside perspective, she went out, getting gassed and shoved by federal officers for her efforts. Binford-Ross has since been written about in The Washington Post and other news platforms. If at 17 this young woman is this badass, we can’t wait to see what she does with the rest of her life.