A Conversation With Nafisa Fai – Candidate For Washington County Commissioner, District 1
Nafisa Fai is an Aloha, Oregon entrepreneur and community leader who wants to be Washington County’s next District One Commissioner. Her journey to run for public office has been a long one, starting with her family’s decision to leave Somalia as refugees when she was a teenager. Now a proud American citizen, Nafisa is running to represent her community and give a voice to the residents of her district.
WCD: I understand you’ve been an American for over twenty years. When and how did you first come to Washington County?
Fai: Washington County was a choice. I first moved here when my mother was diagnosed with dementia. We needed to find a place that would provide the space, comfort, and community we’d need to properly care for her while her health declined. For this, Washington County proved to be perfect; safe, affordable and beautiful in the spring. The people are great. I knew this was the place I wanted to raise my family.
WCD: You have kids?
Fai: Oh, yes, three boys, all under the age of four. Quite a handful but they’re great. Not ready for school yet, but when they are, I’m happy they’ll be going to Beaverton Public Schools.
WCD: Yes, the schools here are good. But what do you see as the chief struggles facing the people of Washington County and how would electing you, help them?
Fai: Well, first off, housing costs in this area are going through the roof. I’ve been knocking on a lot of doors, well before the quarantine anyway, and that was the number one thing folks wanted to talk to me about. If we want to help the people of Washington County, we need to make sure home-ownership stays within reach.
WCD: And how would you do that as a county commissioner?
Fai: I’d establish a policy whereby the county government works with developers to create more low-income housing as part of their development plans. I also want the county to provide intermediary assistance for landlords and renters to help keep people in their homes.
WCD: Any other struggles you’d like to tackle?
Fai: Yes. Traffic congestion needs to be alleviated. In Washington County, we spend far too much of our day stuck on the roads when we’d rather be with our families. To do this the county needs to expand access to public transportation. At present, TriMet doesn’t even serve our rural areas, so how is a person supposed to get to work if they don’t have a dependable car?
I’m also passionate about supporting small businesses and empowering entrepreneurship. Being a small businesswoman myself, I understand the many hurdles that one must jump over just to get started. I’m going to work to establish a county hot-line that would connect entrepreneurs with a county office dedicated to helping them get started. The bottom line, of course, is job creation, and a growing economy for Washington County.
WCD: Sounds like you have a lot of good ideas. But naturally, experience also matters. I understand you were appointed by the governor for the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee. What does that committee do and why were you selected for it?
Fai: Because my background is in public health, and because I demonstrated interest in such issues I was offered the challenge, and I took it. The committee looked into women’s deaths in childbirth and searched for ways to reduce those numbers from a data perspective. We had some success, but the job is not done yet and the fight goes on.
WCD: And what is your background in public health exactly?
Fai: Well, I have a degree in community health from Portland State University, and have worked in public health for local governments for some time. During the 2015 MERS epidemic, I was on a county government response team, so believe me, I know how to work under pressure. Frankly, in the age of COVID-19, such experience is desperately needed on the county commission, and I’m ready to help.
WCD: Yes, right now we clearly do need that, I’m afraid. This is definitely the time to listen to experienced experts in the field. But moving on; you’ve been quoted in the Beaverton Valley Times as saying, “…I want to be the voice that reflects the people of my district…”. That sounds nice, but what do you actually mean by that?
Fai: I want to see leadership that reflects the diversity of our community. If elected, I would be the first woman of color to serve in the history of the commission. And I think that perspective is sorely needed in our leadership right now.
WCD: Good point. Well, before we finish, is there anything you’d like to add?
Fai: Most importantly; I want the people of Washington County to know that if they give me a chance, I will work as hard as I can for them every day. They deserve nothing less.
WCD: Thank you for your time, Ms. Fai.
Fai: You’re welcome.