Oregon became Susheela’s adopted home in 1994. It was a gorgeous, sunny July day, and with a six-month old on her hip and a three-year old wrapped around her leg, she and her family made a spontaneous decision to move to Multnomah County.
That decision eventually led Susheela to leave her career as an attorney so that she could live out her passion – building a community in which all people, all families and all children can thrive. And now, for nearly two decades, Susheela has worked to realize this vision for children and families in Multnomah County.
She has dedicated her time and energy to Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette, Portland Schools Foundation, All Hands Raised, Literary Arts, Metropolitan Family Service, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. She has also been a grant evaluator for the Oregon Community Foundation and served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care.
Being an advocate for children, for public education, for the arts and for reproductive health stem from the values she learned from her parents.
Susheela was born in India. She came to the United States when she was 16, to go to college. Her parents believed that a good education was the cornerstone of a good life, and they used all of their extra income and savings to make sure Susheela received that education.
In 1983, at the age of 20, Susheela earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Swarthmore College. After two years as a financial analyst at an investment bank, Susheela went to law school, earning her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. She was a litigator at law firms in San Francisco and Portland, and then became the General Counsel at adidas America, serving as the member of the senior executive team responsible for the legal affairs of what was then a $1 billion company. As an attorney, Susheela represented the government in taking on corrupt and negligent bank officers during the fiscal crisis of the 1980s; provided free legal services to people seeking political asylum in the U.S.; and worked on improving labor conditions at factories in Southeast Asia, developing and implementing adidas' first set of labor standards.
As important as all of that work was and still is, the pull to have a more direct impact on the lives of people in her community was stronger. That’s why Susheela left her legal career nearly 20 years ago, and has worked in nonprofit leadership positions with community organizations ever since -- working to improve access to reproductive healthcare, prioritizing equity in our public schools, and shifting public funding for the arts to invest in communities of color.
Multnomah County is where Susheela can continue her passion to build a community that works for all of us. It is where all of the major issues facing our community intersect. And where Susheela can bring her focus on racial and social justice where it’s needed most, placing equity at the forefront of the agenda, the conversation, and the public policy.
Whether it’s building more affordable housing, or working to keep people in their homes to prevent homelessness in the first place; ensuring that all people have access to the health care they need and that no one is denied basic human rights or lives in fear because of their race, gender identity, sexuality, ability, or immigration status; doing all we can to seamlessly connect and transfer those receiving public support to job training; reforming our justice system to make it more just and more effective; or improving educational outcomes for all our children – Susheela has the passion, the drive and the leadership experience to get the job done.
Susheela lives in NE Portland. Her children are now 26 and 23 years old, and graduates of Grant High School. Outside of her advocacy work, Susheela enjoys spending time hiking in the Columbia Gorge, reading, gardening, and traveling back to India to visit her parents.