Schmidt seeks to be County Commissioner
Last updated 4/12/2022 at Noon
Morgan Schmidt has spent the past 15 years in nonelected public service. That changed last September when she chose to take her advocacy to the voters by filing to run for Position 3 on the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners, a seat now held by Republican Patty Adair who has filed for reelection.
Schmidt, who just ended her time as a pastor with the First Presbyterian Church of Bend to concentrate on her campaign, is 36 and a Democrat. She was motivated to run for office after watching a County Commission meeting last May where Adair proposed an ordinance that Schmidt interpreted as stipulating the county would not enforce capacity limits for churches for public health reasons.
“I couldn’t believe our elected officials would be working against the good of the people,” Schmidt said at the time.
Schmidt has expressed further disappointment in positions Adair took with respect to COVID-19 response. As the pandemic intensified, Schmidt launched a Facebook page — Pandemic Partners — that aimed to connect people in the community who needed help with those who could provide it. Since then she also has become a vocal advocate for Bend’s homeless population, and helped coordinate emergency shelters for extreme weather events, like cold and smoke.
Her career is long on community building. Beside leading Pandemic Partners, she has served as director of the Bend Youth Collective, chair of the Homeless Leadership Coalition’s Community Engagement Committee, chair of the Presbytery of the Cascades Wildfire Response Committee, and cofounder of Clergy for Justice of Central Oregon.
A native of Anaheim, California, Schmidt essentially grew up in St. Charles, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, before attending Gordon College in Boston, earning a degree in youth ministries and biblical studies. While at college she did an internship in Seattle, where she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. She earned a graduate degree from the Seattle School of Psychology & Theology, and seven years ago a colleague invited her to serve on the clergy team at the First Presbyterian Church of Bend.
“I have had the privilege of serving as a community organizer and pastor in Bend for the last seven years. I led a collaborative youth program for teenagers that were looking for a safe space to belong, and we became a haven for LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and allied youth. Every summer we would visit someplace much different than Bend — Oakland, Seattle, the borderlands between San Diego and Tijuana — to learn about peacemaking, human dignity, and social justice from local leaders and community organizers,” Schmidt said.
She is not challenged in the May primary, but that is not stopping her from actively introducing herself to voters. If she were to prevail against Adair in the November general election, Schmidt said her main goals as commissioner would be collaborating with cities to address the shortage of affordable housing, expanding and funding more mental health services, and addressing Central Oregon’s fast-growing homeless population.
Schmidt is especially interested in expanding a mental health crisis response team that would respond to mental health-related calls in lieu of police officers.
Schmidt said, “I want the county to have leadership that helps meet people where they are at in life.”
She speaks passionately about the houseless.
“We are facing a crisis of affordable workforce housing and already experiencing the consequences in our communities,” she said. “People we love are being forced to move away. Businesses are chronically understaffed, always hiring, or closing for good. We are missing out on the value that a diverse and talented workforce could bring to our communities if they could only afford to live here.”
In describing herself she says: “In my personal life I am a tireless extrovert and all about spending time with my people. I love line dancing, even though I struggle with rhythm, and I love riding horses any chance I get. Like everyone in our county, I love being outside in our truly great outdoors. I’m thankful to share life with beloved friends and family, and of course Buddy, my three-legged golden retriever with an inexplicable hairdo.”
Schmidt believes she is qualified for the office because of what she feels is a track record of successfully leading grassroots efforts in addition to listening and working with people who disagree with her. “Listening to all voices is important,” she has said, “and not operating in an echo chamber.”
The Nugget asked about her experience or familiarity with Sisters.
“I am just getting to know Sisters some and look forward to learning more about the community,” she said.
Her campaign has a Meet and Greet event scheduled at the Sisters Library on Wednesday, May 4, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.