Former state representative, founder of the Bus Project, and co-founder of XRAY.FM Jefferson Smith will become executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, the state’s leading public policy think tank. Center founder and long-time executive director Chuck Sheketoff will be stepping down at the end of the year.
“It is an honor to join such a vital organization working to make Oregon a place where everyone has a real opportunity to thrive,” said Smith. “We will work to build on the organization’s 20-year legacy, continue the Center’s dedication to critical facts and communicating those facts, in order to improve the lives of every Oregonian — especially our most vulnerable.”
“I also want to express my gratitude and admiration for Chuck Sheketoff’s deep commitment to the organization and what he has built here over the last 20 years,” Smith continued.
An Oregon native and magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, Smith founded the Oregon Bus Project in 2001 and served as its first executive director. The Bus Project has engaged and trained thousands of volunteers and leaders in hands-on democracy, spawned multiple partner organizations, registered tens of thousands of Oregonians to vote, and advocated for legislation increasing voter access.
Smith went on to serve two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives, where he championed voter access, including helping pass online voter registration. He also led in enacting Oregon’s budget transparency website and the Transparency Oregon Advisory Commission.
After leaving the legislature, Smith helped found nonprofit radio station XRAY.FM and has served as its first executive director. Smith also hosts a morning show where he has interviewed hundreds of policymakers and opinion leaders.
“In a pool of highly qualified applicants, Jefferson emerged as the person best suited to take the Center to the next level,” said Center board chair Will Neuhauser. “He is a visionary leader with a track record of implementing ideas and growing organizations. He brings communications skills and policy chops that prepare him to succeed in this work.”
Smith replaces outgoing executive director Sheketoff, who founded the Center 20 years ago and is known as a passionate advocate for low-income Oregonians.
“While I will be moving on to new endeavors,” Sheketoff said, “I will remain a fan and supporter of OCPP, whose work has never been so relevant.” He added that Smith will be joining a dedicated staff of professionals with deep expertise in tax, budget, and economic analysis.
“I look forward to joining the OCPP team in the new year,” said Smith. “I’m eager to engage more people to work for economic justice and data-focused policy. With wealth disparities at historic levels, the need for fact-driven policy has never been more urgent. I’m grateful and humbled to be invited to help.”
The Oregon Center for Public Policy (www.www.ocpp.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.