Kendall Clawson

By George T. Nicola
Last updated 3/30/2014

After working for several non-profits elsewhere in the country, Kendall Clawson moved to Portland in 2008 for a position as Executive Director of Q Center, a community center for LGBTQ people.   

In early 2011, she left Q Center to become a member of Governor John Kitzhaber's Senior Staff.  As Director of Executive Appointments, Kendall is responsible for working with the Governor to recruit and make appointments to 312 boards, commissions, task forces, and work groups.

Kendall has also been appointed to a secondary role as the Governor’s Arts and Culture Policy Advisor. 

Leadership for change

Kendall ClawsonIn her past position as Q Center Executive Director, Kendall led the effort to move the Center in 2009 from its original 1,600 square foot location on SE Taylor Street to its current 6,000 square foot location on N Mississippi Avenue; increased the Center’s annual budget from just under $100,000 to more than $350,000 in 3 years and moved the organization from a single staff to 3 full-time staff members; led a successful campaign that raised over $400,000 as an investment for a larger space; devised a unique and innovative business plan that included rent-producing event space and offices for small businesses that helped sustain the Center’s operating budget; created an extensive network of collaborative relationships that bridged the LGBTQ community with other similar and allied community organizations throughout Oregon, the Northwest and nationally.

In her current state position as Director of Executive Appointments, Kendall has worked to make boards, commissions, task forces, and work groups more representative of communities that that were underrepresented in the past -- namely women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.  As an African American lesbian, Kendall has applied her understanding of this need to the task of fulfilling it. 

None of these accomplishments could be the result of one person’s directives.  All of them require the skill of organizing teamwork that Kendall consistently exhibits.  To this, Kendall has also applied her well-known integrity and dedication. 

Role model to countless other Oregonians

Kendall’s accomplishments have been both unique and exceptional.  By representing LGBTQ people, women, and people of color, Kendall provides a stellar role model for those of us whose abilities, efforts, and contributions have not always been adequately recognized in the past. 

The LGBTQ movement is sometimes accused of being overwhelmingly white male in composition.  That assumption has often discouraged women and people of color from participating in its activities.  The fact that Kendall has had such a visible position, while being proudly out, helps counter that stereotype while at the same time inviting universal inclusion. 

LGBTQ youth are still intimidated and bullied by other kids in and outside of school.  But they can look up to Kendall and see hope that they might rise above that to a position of dignity, and in the process make a difference in the broad community. 

On a personal level, Kendall has been a role model for me.  I came out in 1970 when openly gay people were uncommon.  It was difficult for us to get or keep jobs if our sexual orientation was known.   The fact that someone like Kendall can be so proudly out while also being so successful and articulate is a personal inspiration for me that keeps me politically active in the LGBTQ movement. 

Notable achievements

In 2011, Kendall greatly expanded and enhanced Portland’s first LGBTQ community center since 1974.  This was a much needed institution and it has done a great job since then.  It has given a place for our community to gather and get assistance, including transgender people who have had trouble being accepted elsewhere. 

An example of an important role Q Center played under Kendall is the excellent response they gave when Portland experienced a number of violent anti-gay attacks.  In her current role in government, Kendall had made sure that LGBTQ people have an opportunity to be members of boards, commissions, task forces, and work groups that have a direct or indirect effect on their lives as Oregonians. 

Empowering women and eliminating inequities

When Kendall directed Q Center, she made sure that all groups within the LGBTQ community felt welcome.  This included lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender women.  The fact that Kendall is an exceptionally competent and self-confident woman, in a movement assumed by some to be largely male, was a plus in and of itself.  The fact that she is African American was especially important in a city like Portland where people of color have often been underrepresented.  In her position as Director of Executive Appointments, Kendall’s invitation to LGBTQ people, women, and people of color to membership on the state’s boards, commissions, task forces, and work groups has helped make Oregon government more universally representative. 

Here are some examples.  When Kendall took the position, only 6% of the people in those appointments were people of color.  Now, that percentage is 25%.  During that time, the percentage of women in these positions rose from 17% to 52%, which is about the same portion of women in the Oregon adult population.  The first ever transgender people have been appointed.  The first African American was appointed to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and he happens to be a gay man!

Community involvement

Kendall’s leadership in developing Q Center has in itself been a huge contribution to the LGBTQ community.  It remains a benefit now years after she left that position. 

In her current job with the State of Oregon, she has invited participation from the LGBTQ community.  

Kendall also returns to LGBTQ community events as needed.  For instance, in the spring of 2013, PFLAG Portland Black Chapter held its fourth anniversary.  Kendall not only attended the function, but also gave a moving speech about the support she was given by a gay man when she came out. 

Unique contributions

There are few other people in the Oregon LGBTQ community whose leadership has been so important.  Q Center which Kendall developed is a huge asset to LGBTQ people.  The fact that Q Center’s library was named for her after her departure indicates how much her leadership is appreciated. 

In her current job, Kendall has led us to participate in government.  So in two very different positions, Kendall has helped create conditions that can better our lives. 





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