By Ron Glanville
Richard Bixby has been the Executive Director of East Portland Neighborhood Office (EPNO) as long as most activists and neighborhood leaders can remember. The rare person still around before Richard’s time is Alice Blatt (our revered East Portland activist). He has served with distinction and with grace through both good times and some tough times. He has witnessed a lot of outer East Portland history, and he will be missed.
Richard Bixby started working in community involvement in East Portland 27 years ago. He was hired by the City in a temporary position helping the Director of the program at that time, Charlsie Sprague, work with the neighborhood associations and community groups of the area prepare their non-profit organization to contract with the City to provide community involvement services. He was then hired by the non-profit, East Portland District Coalition, as a crime prevention specialist. When the contract was withdrawn from the non-profit 6 years later, he was retained by the City to continue to provide community involvement support to the area. In 2000, the neighborhood associations decided to continue with a City-run office rather than re-establish the non-profit contract, and I was hired at that time as the Director of the East Portland Neighborhood Office.
This correspondent asked Richard what has been the favorite part of the Directors job:
“What I have enjoyed most is seeing the focus and passion of so many different people as they step up and advocate for something for their community or organize community-building activities. This frothing chaos of activity is what gives me hope in democracy. Ordinary people taking charge of shaping their community and not leaving it to those in powerful positions.”
What was the most satisfying project that you have achieved as Director?
“In this business, everything is a group effort, no one can build community on their own, and yet all of us influence our community. I have had the pleasure of playing a part in the current transition of the EPNO program from a focus on organizational structures to focus on activities that are of interest to community members. This transition, which is still in process, is opening our program to support many more residents of East Portland. I am honored to have played a role in this transition, and appreciate the important roles the other staff at EPNO, and the many community members involved have played. All have shared their perspectives and important values, and have shaped the program.”
What do you wish for the future of EPNO and East Portland?
“In the time I have worked here, East Portland has gone through a huge change. From appearances, it looks like change is going to continue. I wish for East Portland what I wish for our City and country, that we create a community that values all people. Portland has apparently learned how to turn a poor area into a high-rent district. Just as apparently, it has not figured out how to make a place for all who live here, the low-income and people who are different than those in power. I hope EPNO can play a small role (it is a small program) in helping our community being more inclusive, and making a place for everyone who lives here.”
Richard is married with three children, living in inner Southeast Portland. All of his children have gone through various Portland Public Schools and have now all graduated from college.
When asked what is next for him, he responded, “In retirement, I expect to do more traveling, more gardening, and finish some of the projects around the house. However I plan to start my retirement with a sabbatical. These last almost three decades of raising a family, remodeling a house, while working this demanding job, has not allowed as much time as I would like to reflect on my activities and goals.
“I pursued work in community involvement because I believe that participation in our governance, and in building our communities, is so important to our quality of life,” Bixby said. “All this time working in East Portland has given me a wealth of experiences to reflect on, and awareness of the many ways to participate in building community. So I plan to take some time off, and reflect on what I personally am drawn to, before I re-engage in community engagement as another community member.”