Oregon Walks hires Jess Thompson as new executive director

Jess Thompson.
(Photo: Oregon Walks)

Jess Thompson is the new executive director of Oregon Walks.

The Portland-based nonprofit announced the hire this morning. Here’s more from their Board President Sama Shagaga:

“… Jess is a lifelong walker, and comes to us with experience as a public school teacher and instructional coach, nonprofit manager at Community Warehouse, and most recently as an equity and inclusion consultant. She is honored to join Oregon Walks in the essential work to ensure all people are able to access walkways that are safe, convenient, and enjoyable. Jess joins the Oregon Walks team as we embark on a new strategic planning process and address challenges in ensuring safe streets for all; she anticipates the coming years will be filled with much listening, learning, and advocating for pedestrian safety with volunteers, community partners, staff, board, and donors.”


Oregon Walks’ former director, Noel Mickelberry, stepped down back in January. Thompson will assume her new role on November 13th.

Women are leading Portland’s active transportation advocacy movement: Thompson joins Kassandra Griffin of the Community Cycling Center, Catie Gould and Emily Guise from Bike Loud PDX and Jillian Detweiler from The Street Trust in her leadership role.

The hire comes at a crucial time for Oregon Walks. Last week, after two people were killed while walking in just one week — including the fourth of the year on outer SE Division Street — the organization issued a statement renewing their calls for more investment in safe streets. “We must do more to protect our most vulnerable residents from preventable crashes – particularly those who reside in low-income neighborhoods that bear the brunt of our most dangerous streets,” they said. “It’s clear that while lower speeds will move us closer to achieving our Vision Zero goal, these changes alone are not enough to make our roads truly safe.”

So far this year Portland has recorded 27 traffic fatalities — 11 of them were people walking.

Advocates and partners of Oregon Walks will get their first chance to meet Thompson at the group’s annual Weston Awards fundraiser which takes place November 2nd.
weston awards

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Scott Kocher
5 years ago

Ooh first comment! First, welcome aboard Jess! And, on the topic of OW here are a few things bikey folks should know about OW and walking. Roughly 50% of all roadway deaths in Portland are people walking or rolling. That’s right. Half. The national average is 11 to 14%. OW has been around almost as long as BTA/TST, but has only had paid staff in recent years. What bikey and walky folks want is want is 90% the same. Actually 100% because everyone is a pedestrian. When people who don’t ride bikes can’t understand why, say, lower speeds or road diets are important, the walky folks need to be the messenger.

Steve B.
Steve B.
5 years ago

Congrats on the new hire to Oregon Walks and welcome Jess!