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  • 26 Nov 2015

    Sunny 47°F 30°F

  • 27 Nov 2015

    Sunny 45°F 30°F

Union leader, veteran seeking county seat

COURTESY: AMANDA SCHROEDER/ANNE CLARE - Amanda Schroeder, here with her son, Kenny, has battled a lot in her life. Next she wants to represent East Portland on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. Two years ago, when Amanda Schroeder had a 7 1/2-centimeter tumor in her breast and was about to lose her hair to chemotherapy, she had a head-shaving party.

“We had a celebration of life party,” she says. “People flew in from all over the world.”

Friends and supporters of the East County mother, union leader and Army veteran raised $700 by shaving their heads in solidarity.

Some of her union brothers grew moustaches and dyed them pink to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Since then, Schroeder had a double mastectomy and is now cancer-free.

Touting her tenacity, passion for East County residents and deep understanding of local issues, Schroeder is the latest to file for the Multnomah County Board of Commission’s District 4 seat in the May 17 election.

She and two other candidates, so far, are vying to fill the seat being vacated by Commissioner Diane McKeel, who has reached her term limit.

“It was hard and it was scary, but I just had incredible support,” Schroeder, 39, says of her cancer. “I want to make sure the people of East County have that kind of love and support, that kind of network.”

While Schroeder hasn’t held public office, she and her family are steeped in public service, and East Portland.

Having experienced the health care system firsthand, and with a husband who is a Portland police officer, health care and public safety are two of her top concerns.

Gang violence and education are “inextricably intertwined,” she says, and she wants to see bigger investments in the county’s SUN School programs.

“We have the support they need to be successful — the community needs to step up and be there,” she says. “East County is a big place. We need to create a collaborative effort.”

COURTESY: AMANDA SCHROEDER - U.S. Army veteran and Portland union leader Amanda Schroeder, 39, is one of three candidates so far in the District 4 seat for the Multnomah County May primary election. 

Schroeder also is passionate about increasing services and access to services for the vulnerable, particularly veterans.

The new veterans shelter at the First Congregational United Church of Christ is a great start, Shroeder says, but she wants to make sure it’s staffed to address veterans’ needs. “I want an aggressive and proactive program to figure out where these people are broken .... how to bridge the disconnect. Get the people who want to be inside, inside.”

Now working as a veterans service representative at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Schroeder grew up in Boring, spent a lot of time in Gresham, and graduated from Mt. Hood Community College and Oregon State University.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, she served in the U.S. Army as a language specialist in Hawaii, and met her future husband at the language school in Monterey, Calif.

She married Matt Schroeder in 2001; three years later he was deployed to Afghanistan.

After his return in 2006 they settled in East Portland; they now live near Powell Butte with their 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son who attend their neighborhood schools.

“My husband came back whole; I was very grateful,” Schroeder says, still reflecting on the female veterans she and her daughter visited at a Portland shelter on Veterans Day last week.

“A lot of our friends ended up like these women. ... Their stories were amazing. They’re all a little broken.”

Schroeder says she’s all too familiar with the reality of working people in East Portland.

“When Matt first came home from Afghanistan, he couldn’t find work for quite a while,” she says. “We were living on my salary alone. I’ve been in grocery stores trying to decide — do I buy meat or do I buy cereal? I’ve lived the struggle.”

The family had to rely on one paycheck again during her treatments, when she couldn’t work.

“I know what it’s like to be in times of extreme difficulty and remain positive, and I’m very solution oriented. We’re very creative in how we look at the various problems.”

At her union, she is president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2157. Her grandmother, mother and father were local union leaders, too.

“I grew up on a picket line; my kids are growing up on a picket line,” she says. “I know the values; I’m part of the people.”