Photograph by Felicity J. Mackay

Maurice A. Henderson II, ’97, has been tapped by the new mayor of Portland, Oregon, to serve as chief of staff and director of strategic initiatives.

What first attracted you to Portland?
A friend and former colleague reached out to me when building her team at the bureau of transportation. Issues of access and equity are at the heart of transit work and my personal passion, so I accepted the job and moved across country for it.

What do you enjoy most about the city?
I get to wake up every day and have a view of one of the most beautiful places in the country. It’s a great place for foodies — we’ve got good cheese, fantastic wine, and great beer.

What’s most surprising about living in Portland?
I’m not surprised by it, but Portland’s the whitest large city in America. There is a certain Utopian feel to the place for those who have access and resources. But that’s not the reality for far too many Portlanders. The challenges can be greater here. Because of the sheer demographic percentages, many stories of the underrepresented don’t get told the way they have been in areas like Richmond or Washington, D.C.

Has Portland lived up to pop culture portrayals?
We’ve certainly got an eclectic vibe. The “Keep Portland Weird” ethos is here, but that can mean different things to different people.

What’s most exciting about Portland’s direction?
Portland strives to be an inclusive place and a place that allows people to be authentically who they are. When asking whether I would come on board, the mayor made it clear he wanted the most diverse leadership team in the city’s history. I interpret that as building a team that is diverse in thought and opinion as well as in face and physical ability. That ongoing directive will help us attract people committed to ensuring the city is growing and appreciating all of its residents.