Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s sister has been elected as a member of the Board of Commissioners of Multnomah County in Oregon, the first South Asian to be elected in the western US State. Susheela Jayapal, 55, won the District 2 seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners with 57 per cent of the vote, the results of which were declared last night. “My sister”, Susheela Jayapal, “just became the first South Asian American elected in Oregon!!! #DiversityMatters,” Pramila, who is the first ever Indian American woman elected to the House of Representatives, tweeted soon after the results.
A former corporate lawyer and longtime community volunteer defeated construction contractor Sharon Maxwell and two others to succeed Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. Susheela, a political newcomer, will represent North and Northeast Portland commissioner’s seat. Born in India like her sister Pramila, Susheela came to the United States when she was 16, to go to college. In 1983, at the age of 20, Susheela earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Swarthmore College. After working for two years as a financial analyst at an investment bank, Susheela went to law school, earning her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
She was a litigator at law firms in San Francisco and Portland, and then became the General Counsel at adidas America, serving as the member of the senior executive team responsible for the legal affairs of what was then a USD 1 billion company. As an attorney, Susheela represented the government in taking on corrupt and negligent bank officers during the fiscal crisis of the 1980s; provided free legal services to people seeking political asylum in the US; and worked on improving labour conditions at factories in Southeast Asia, developing and implementing adidas’ first set of labour standards. She is a frequent visitor to India to meet her parents.
In an interview to local Oregon Live, she had said her first priority was housing, homelessness and she wants to create an ombudsman’s office. “What I really see and respond to is the effect on communities that have been fractured by these types of displacement. I think we are all worse off when that happens to one of our communities,” Susheela had said.