'Bold, fearless' former Portland mayor Vera Katz dies at 84 - KPTV - FOX 12

'Bold, fearless' former Portland mayor Vera Katz dies at 84

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In this Aug. 25, 2003 file photo, Portland Mayor Vera Katz smiles as she holds a baseball cap following a news conference in Portland. (AP photo). In this Aug. 25, 2003 file photo, Portland Mayor Vera Katz smiles as she holds a baseball cap following a news conference in Portland. (AP photo).
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Bold, trail-blazing and fearless. Those are some of the words Oregonians are using to describe former Portland Mayor Vera Katz who died Monday morning at the age of 84.

Katz served as Portland’s mayor from 1993 to 2005, leading the charge for arts in education, light rail expansion, urban growth boundaries and rights for same sex couples.

In a written statement Monday, Congressman Earl Blumenaur said, “Vera was bold, shrewd, determined, smart, and an amazing role model. Our city would not be what it is without her. I will miss her constructive criticism, counsel, and friendship.”

Katz’s public life started in the Oregon legislature in 1973 and she eventually became the first woman speaker of the house. Gov. Barbara Roberts was moving up in the ranks at the same time and laughed over the phone when she admitted to FOX 12 that they didn’t always see eye to eye.

“We occasionally had conflict when she was chairman of Ways and Means. She didn’t like my secretary of state’s budget and those kinds of things,” said Roberts. “But that was part of the working relationship of strong women I guess.”

Katz and her mother escaped the Nazis in Europe when she was just a baby. Roberts thinks that fueled her determination.

“She felt very strongly that she had to be disciplined and solid and give clear messages and I think that was part of that background,” said Roberts.

After battling cancer twice, Katz was recently diagnosed with acute leukemia. Her son Jesse Katz was by her side when she passed away and writes, “My mom was the embodiment of the American dream: coming with nothing and making a better life not just for herself but for the countless others she touched. While we miss her terribly, I know that her fearlessness, generosity and persistence will continue to shine light on our world.”

Current Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler went to school with Jesse Katz and said he remembers Vera the mother just as much as Vera the mayor.

“It’s rare that someone as accomplished in public life makes a similar impact in their personal life,” Wheeler said in a written statement. “Vera did. Our community will miss her tremendously.”

Those close to Vera Katz say she always had a big smile and an even bigger heart, especially when it came to the citizens of Portland – a clear sentiment she expressed during one of many speeches she gave at the City Club of Portland.

“I know what I’ve tried to do,” said Katz. “I also know that nothing was done alone, but always hand in hand, with you.”

A public memorial service for Katz is being planned for January.

A bronze statue of Katz was unveiled in 2006 along the Eastbank Esplanade.

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