Political science alumna and Mayor of Beaverton Lacey Beaty talks about her journey growing up in San Diego, to her time at OSU, and then mayor

Lacey Beaty

Mayor Lacey Beaty

By Evaewero French, Public Policy Ph.D. Candidate - February 22, 2024

In the city of Beaverton, Oregon, Mayor Lacey Beaty, ‘12, stands as an emblem of resilience, an advocate for positive change, and the trailblazing first woman to assume the mayoral office.

Mayor Beaty's narrative commences with her journey into the U.S. Army immediately after graduating from high school. Raised by a single mother in San Diego, California, with limited prospects for higher education, her deployment to Iraq in 2004 marked a pivotal moment. Learning about how policymakers' decisions were affecting the lives of young people and the inadequacies in military equipment sparked her commitment to public service. In her words, she described that after “watching people who were in charge of our country be so dismissive of America’s young people, I knew I wanted to be involved in public policy even though I didn’t know what it meant at the time.”

After five years of active duty, Mayor Beaty pursued a history degree and studied about World War II, until her interest in political science deepened when she moved to Oregon; she was drawn to the political science degree offered at Oregon State University due to the unique opportunity to attend classes remotely.

Mayor Beaty's political science degree from OSU played a crucial role in honing her understanding of the intricacies of politics and policymaking. Reflecting on her degree program, she emphasized, "It taught me that there's a lot I don't know, that politics and policies are very complicated, but the overall lesson I always took away is decisions are made by those who show up and how important it is to not just be a bystander, but really engage." Her academic journey served as a bridge between theoretical knowledge and practical application, underscoring the pivotal role of engagement and participation.

The turning point in her career arrived when she actively participated in Senator Chuck Riley’s campaign as part of her capstone project, setting ablaze her passion for local politics.  Her connection with the Washington County Democratic Party provided her with firsthand insight into the complexities of campaigning and the significance of supporting candidates for meaningful change. In her words, "I found the opportunity working for Chuck through the local Democratic Party. I started going to meetings, trying to figure out where I could do an internship because it was a requirement at the time."

Also contributing to her career journey was finding her purpose of serving and committing to it. “I was talking to a mentor who said, ‘you need purpose, and just because you're done serving in the army doesn't mean you need to be done serving. So, figure out a way to serve’ and so I started volunteering on a city board: the  Visioning Advisory Committee. We were creating a 10-year plan for what the future of Beaverton would look like, and I was really able to bring in this understanding of government from what I have learned”. These early engagements laid the groundwork for her future pursuits in public service.

Mayor Beaty's journey was not devoid of challenges. From confronting gender biases to navigating the loneliness of transitioning from military to civilian life, she draws inspiration from her two daughters. Her resilience is fueled by the desire to create a better future for them, underscoring the importance of representation and breaking down barriers for women in leadership. Mayor Beaty reflected on her experiences, saying, "I think about the future that they [her daughters] deserve. I don’t know who they are going to marry, and I don’t know what kind of healthcare they are going to need. I don’t know what kind of life they are going to have, but I am going to fight like hell to make sure that they have every single opportunity afforded to them and that I believe America offers.” This perspective informs her decision-making and advocacy for a more inclusive and equitable society.

In offering advice to current students, Mayor Beaty urges them to "make a friend before you need a friend." Emphasizing the significance of relationships, she stresses the importance of genuine, meaningful interactions beyond social media. Actively engaging with professionals in the desired field, attending events, and making personal connections are essential tools for building a successful career. She stresses that "there's no shortcut to relationship building. If you want a job in policy or politics, relationships are what matter most–not how much you know–so make sure you are cultivating relationships in your chosen career field.”

Mayor Beaty's journey stands as an inspiration for current and future leaders. Her commitment to service, passion for local politics, and dedication to fostering positive change exemplify the spirit of public service. In the ever-evolving landscape of politics and policymaking, Mayor Beaty remains an inspiration, advocating for inclusivity, representation, and the active participation of the next generation in shaping the future.