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About Sam

Sam’ passion for making things better is fueled by his upbringing. 


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As a kid, Sam grew up in the small coastal town of Newport, Oregon.


The local economy was in transition: so many trees had been cut down that the logging industry had mostly collapsed. Sam’s father, Larry, a special education teacher, also he worked as a commercial fisherman to make ends meet. But climate change and overfishing depleted that line of work.


Sam’s father struggled with addiction issues. After his parent's divorce, Sam’s mother, Kara, became a single mom of four teenaged kids. With the help of subsidized public student family housing and food stamps, Kara, once a high school drop out, obtained a college education.

At 11 years old, Sam started work as a newspaper delivery boy for the Oregonian. He became fascinated by current events, reading each paper, cover-to-cover. "I also read about Portland, a place that seemed like a place that would more readily accept for who I am," says Sam.


As a teenager in a small Oregon town in the 1970s, Sam also struggled with his identity. He didn’t know other people who were gay and was bullied from a young age for being “a fag.” At age 16, he began living largely on his own in Eugene, going to high school there while working as a dishwasher, busboy and cook at Mr. Steak in the evenings and weekends.

This background is why Sam is so passionate about helping good communities, helping those in need of a hand up, and fair treatment for all. Access to employment and effective government programs like food stamps and subsidized public housing were part of the reason he had a place to live and enough to eat when his family struggled. 

Sam Adams has worked as a county government intern, congressional aide, a campaign manager, mayoral chief of staff, a member of the city council, a Portland mayor, a nonprofit executive director, an environmental think tank leader of a global organization, a columnist, and a consultant. All this work has been dedicated to a common theme: making communities more educated, healthy, sustainable, prosperous, and equitable for all.

In his free time, Sam enjoys spending time with his partner, Peter Zuckerman, along with writing, beekeeping, beer-making, gardening, and photography.

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