Works and Days


"local policy"

Multnomah County Commission, Reed Winter Externship, Sarah Canavan

Sarah Canavan, sophomore economics major, participated in the Reed winter externship program, working with Reed alumna, Christine Lewis '07, policy director for one of the Multnomah County Commissioners.

            I returned from a trip home to Texas for the holidays just a day before my externship with Christine Lewis at Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey’s office. After my first semester at Reed, my trip home allowed me to reconnect with my family, my home and my past, and I was able to return to Portland and begin my externship with a renewed sense of self and purpose. I sat down with Christine to discuss the goals of my week stint as an intern at the Multnomah County office. We discussed my initial questions and planned which meetings I would attend and how I could learn more about data and research methods that play a part in the policy design at the office. After some discussion, we decided that I would shadow Christine and others at the office in their roles at the office and help do some thorough research into proposed levee reevaluation. 

            I’ve been a resident of Portland for five years and since living here have been marginally involved in local politics (voting in local elections, primarily) and my experience as a daily bicycle commuter has led me to participate in several bicycle and transportation advocacy groups or events (Shift2bikes, Oregon Walks, etc…) My academic and career interests lie in public policy design and analysis but I had never really seen what the working environment in this field would actually look like. What I got out of my externship was the opportunity to see county level policy being shaped, in fact, I really felt like I was seeing democracy in action. The process is an amalgam of inspiration, empowerment and frustration. The flavor of board meetings was similar to the Socratic method of Reed conference classes but with the meticulous minute taking of a senate meeting. I went to four board meetings; Home for Everyone Coordinating Council, Board of County Commissioners Meeting, Local Public Safety Coordinating Council and Oregon Solutions Levee Meeting. Going into detail about the different meetings and my observations from my time at the office could take a long time, so I think I’ll share some of my most interesting observations.