My Oregon Story: Ted Sweeney

Ted is the 2012 Paul Gerhardt, Jr. Intern at 1000 Friends. He is a recent graduate of the Planning, Public Policy and Management program at University of Oregon.

Are you from Oregon originally? If yes, what has kept you here, or what brought you back?

I was born in Portland. As a high school senior in San Jose in 1972, my father heard Tom McCall speak about protecting Oregon through land-use and pollution control, and chose to leave California for the University of Oregon in order to live in a state committed to maintaining its verdant natural wealth. My mother has lived in East Portland all her life, the daughter of a mail carrier and switch-board operator. I had the good fortune to grow up and receive a great public education in this state.

Do you have a favorite Oregon landscape or place? What is it and why?

The bank of the Sandy river, where I mentored high school students teaching 6th graders about the natural world as part of Multnomah County's Outdoor School program. My work with Outdoor School, as a student leader and than a staff member, helped me recognize the power of the land-use system and the intelligent approach Oregon takes to urban growth. Those students could come just half an hour from their schools and be transported out of the urban environment and into a totally different, natural world. They could explore and learn about real old growth forests, see salmon lay eggs and die, see stars! Working with kids in that setting helped me realize how relatively easy it had been for my folks to keep me connected to the natural world with weekend hikes and camping trips. That kind of connection to the environment imparts absolutely priceless understanding and a sense of wholeness that I don't know how I could have gotten growing up in a more sprawling city.


How do 1000 Friends of Oregon and/or the land use system support the places and characteristics you love most about Oregon?

I am very proud of our contained and accessible cities, and also thrilled how easy it is to leave them and experience the beauty and wildness of Oregon. Our land-use goals have turned the energy of development inward on our cities, and you can see and feel the vibrancy created, whether it's a MAX-full of Timbers fans, the explosively successful growth of Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, families getting around on bikes, buzzing street life, or the presence of major international companies like Google who recognize the really great place our land-use process has produced. And above it all hang beautiful views of mountains, vineyard-capped hills and stoic old-growth, reminding us that a city is only as strong as its hinterland.

What's your perfect vision for Oregon in 20 years?

I take pride in Oregon's leadership on land-use and transportation policy, and so I hope that, 20 years down the road, we will still find Oregon out in front of these issues, absorbing growth and changes related to climate change, population, and migration in a way that maintains our natural capital, peerless scenery, and vibrant cities. If people are still looking to Oregon as an example of how to move forward and make life better in their own communities, I will be satisfied. Living sustainably and protecting what we have will always be a process.

If you had to do define Oregon in one to three words, what would they be?

Leadership, Life, Options.


What's Your Oregon Story? Tell us here.

Click here to read about some of the stories and accomplishments of past Gerhardt Interns.