Who was the most influential, fascinating or newsworthy person we’ve written about in 2016? We’re letting our readers decide.
We’ve narrowed the field to 25 candidates for your consideration. As you’ll see, they aren’t all heroes. Some of them are
controversial figures; some were involved in tragic stories; some are longtime leaders and some you may never have heard of.
And one is not a person at all.
The finalists all have local or regional ties, and at one point or another captivated readers or encapsulated issues that proved to be defining moments for Oregon in 2016.
Read about the candidates below (listed in no particular order) to refresh your memories, then make your pick. You may vote daily until the poll closes at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 20.
Robert Borba: Cowboy vigilante
Borba just needed some dog food at Walmart, but instead he roped an alleged bike thief while on horseback and came away with viral fame. Borba told The Medford Mail Tribune he “seen this fella trying to get up to speed on a bicycle. I wasn’t going to catch him on foot. I just don’t run very fast.” That’s when the rancher and former rodeo cowboy grabbed his horse Long John and gave chase in an Eagle Point parking lot, eventually roping the alleged thief before calling police. National and international news outlets picked up on the story, and it was a novelty for the Eagle Point police as well. “We’ve never had anyone lassoed and held until we got there,” Sgt. Darin May said. “That’s a first for me.”
Phil Knight:Nike co-founder and philanthropist
The Nike magnate stepped down in June as chairman of the company he co-founded in 1964, leaving behind an $85 billion enterprise that Forbes calls the “most valuable sports brand in the world.” In October, he and his wife Penny pledged $500 million to the University of Oregon for a new science complex in Eugene, with the aim of accelerating the progression from scientific discovery to “real world impact.” The donation is the nation’s largest to a public flagship university and brings the couple’s total contributions to higher education in Oregon and beyond to more than $2 billion.
Juror 4:Oregon standoff trial
One of the 12 jurors who acquitted Ammon Bundy and six other defendants on federal conspiracy, weapons and other charges stemming from the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He’s the lone juror who spoke out, explaining the jury’s decision. He’s also the juror who sent a note to the judge during deliberations, suggesting another juror was biased. His note led U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown to dismiss Juror 12 and replace him with an alternate juror and order deliberations to begin anew. Juror 4 is a business administration student at Marylhurst University.
Chloe Eudaly:Political novice who upset Steve Novick on Portland City Council
Eudaly, a longtime indie bookstore owner new to local politics, ousted Portland Commissioner Steve Novick in November — the first loss for a City Council incumbent in 24 years. Sure, her shoe-string campaign rode a wave of anti-Novick sentiment. But Eudaly, the only commissioner on the city’s vast east side, emerged as a champion for renters worried Portland’s housing boom will force them to leave an increasingly expensive city.
Vineet Edupuganti:Teen inventor
Edupuganti might be a mere high school senior. But at age 17, the Portland teen’s already invented something that could spare many of his fellow humans from serious surgery — while revolutionizing the diagnosis and monitoring of health conditions deep in the body. His ingestible biodegradable battery earned the highest individual award — and $100,000 — at the nation’s premier high school science competition this year. The engineering chairman who helped judge the contest called the battery “a truly transforming step.” Despite those accolades, Vineet is humble and credits others with helping him excel.
The Bernie Bird*
He doesn’t have a name. He didn’t vote (we hope.) But for one fleeting moment, he put Oregon in the national spotlight during the presidential primaries.
It was like a scene out of a Disney movie. As Bernie Sanders orated his disdain for the millionaire- and billionaire-class to a crowd at the Moda Center, a tiny sparrow perched on his podium, prompting thousands to proclaim, “Only in Oregon.”
Ammon Bundy: Oregon standoff leader
The 41-year-old leader of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who came to Burns in November to press Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and other government officials to step in and prevent two Harney County ranchers from returning to federal prison on arson convictions. He led a march in Burns on Jan. 2 in support of Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond, and then joined with his brother Ryan Bundy and other supporters to seize the federal wildlife refuge located about 20 miles south of Burns. He was arrested Jan. 26 as he and others were driving to a community meeting in John Day. He went to trial on federal conspiracy and weapons charges, testified in his behalf over three days and was acquitted by a jury of all allegations. Bundy, of Emmett, Idaho, now faces prosecution in Nevada stemming from a standoff with federal agents over grazing rights fees involving cattle from his father Cliven Bundy’s ranch near Bunkerville.
Dennis Richardson:First Republican to win statewide elected office in over 20 years
Richardson, newly elected secretary of state, waited for The Oregonian/OregonLIve to make it official before he’d admit becoming the first Republican to win a statewide election in Oregon since 2002. The win was a reboot for Richardson, who lost to Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2014 despite assailing him about the ethics scandal that later drove him from office. This year, Richardson looked prescient on ethics and argued that his controversial views on social issues — opposing abortion and same-sex marriage — don’t matter in a more bureaucratic job.
Gregory McKelvey:Portland’s Resistance leader
McKelvey is a Portland law student and a leader of the advocacy group Portland’s resistance, which organized prominent anti-Trump protests after the election. McKelvey also was part of an hours-long standoff in front of City Hall over the city’s new labor contract with police and another protest when people camped in front of Mayor Charlie Hales’ house to decry the police response to the City Hall protest. The large Resistance protests put Portland in the national spotlight after Donald Trump’s presidential election. One of those protests caused an estimated $1 million in property damage after a group of violent protesters joined the crowd of approximately 4,000.
Tobin Heath: U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year
The women’s soccer star appeared in 22 games for the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2016, recording a career-best six goals and eight assists and garnering U.S.Soccer Female Player of the Year honors. She represented the USA at this summer’s Olympic Games, finishing the tournament with two assists. With the Portland Thorns, the 28-year-old recorded a league-record 10 assists this season in just 14 appearances. She was named to the NWSL Best XI for her performance and was a finalist for the league’s MVP award. Heath led the Thorns to the NWSL Shield as the best team in the regular season, and the Thorns entered the playoffs as the favorites before falling to Western New York 4-3 in the semifinals.
Ursula Le Guin:Local literary legend
Le Guin is Portland’s best-known author, a literary luminary whose long career includes numerous major literary awards. She has stopped writing fiction, but in 2016 she returned to the news for three reasons: The announcement that the Library of America, which almost never honors living authors, was issuing the first of several volumes collecting her works. A Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly three times its goal for a documentary film about her and her writing. And her selection as the focus of the University of Oregon’s annual feminist science fiction convention, which drew attendees from throughout the country.
Though she is now held up as a guiding light of feminism, her early writings contained few women because, she has said, “I didn’t know how to write about women. I didn’t know that you could write about women.”
Devon Allen:UO wide receiver turned pro hurdler
The Oregon Ducks’ two-sport star burst onto the international scene in the 110-meter hurdles, suffered a season-ending injury on the football field and announced he would be turning pro in track. Allen won the NCAA title in the 110 hurdles in June, then beat all the best American pros at the Olympic trials in July, clocking a personal-best 13.03 seconds. Allen, 21, was the youngest of the eight competitors in the 110 hurdles final at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. Running in his first international meet, Allen placed fifth in Rio. He then returned to Eugene to rejoin the Ducks football team. The junior wide receiver’s season ended abruptly, after just four catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, as he tore the ACL in his left knee Sept. 17 against Nebraska. Two months removed from surgery, Allen announced in November he would forgo his remaining college eligibility in both sports to turn pro in track.
Lt. Peter St. John: Injured firefighter who evactuated people in NW Portland gas explosion
On the morning of Oct. 19, St. John helped clear a building of people in Northwest Portland after hazard readings showed a dangerously high level of natural gas. After the workers were out, St. John walked toward a nearby hole where an excavating crew had hit a natural gas pipeline. Then the building exploded into a ball of flame, sending St. John flying into a nearby cyclone fence. He blacked out temporarily and when he awoke, he couldn’t move his legs. He saw one of his legs grotesquely twisted.
The Station 3 firefighter is recuperating at his Tigard home with his wife and three children. The former Portland State University football player looks forward to his return to work, but isn’t certain when that will happen.
Brian Krzanich:Intel CEO
Though he lives in California, Intel’s chief executive runs Oregon’s largest private employer. This past year, his fourth running Intel, was the company’s most eventful in a generation. Anticipating long-term decline in Intel’s core market, the PC business, Krzanich oversaw the elimination of 15,000 jobs worldwide from April through September. The company laid off 784 Oregonians in April and cut loose hundreds or thousands more through buyouts. In June, Krzanich acknowledged employees found the cutbacks too “harsh and quick,” but he stood by his plan to remake Intel by focusing on data centers and other new technologies. “The best way to get morale and confidence up is when our business growth really starts to take off,” Krzanich told employees.
Anna Brown: U.S. District Judge presiding over the Oregon standoff trial
Brown was the trial court judge for the federal prosecution of Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants stemming from their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which began in mid-September and lasted five weeks, with verdicts announced on Oct. 27. She managed the high-profile, multi-defendant case that presented many challenges: three defendants who were allowed to represent themselves, one who repeatedly questioned her oath of office and Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford who tried her patience. She’ll continue to preside over a second trial expected for seven remaining defendants, and handle motions by three other defendants to withdraw their guilty pleas. at is:
John Brigande: OHSU superstar hearing researcher
Brigande, hearing researcher at OHSU: Considered a superstar in his field, he’s developed a way to correct deafness in mice fetusus by correcting a gene abnormality. “I thought that this would be an obvious, clear path to give me the best chance to communicate effectively,” Brigande said about his choice of profession. Brigande started losing hearing in his left ear at age 9. He has a cochlear implant but it didn’t bring back his hearing.
Jamie Weisner:Former OSU guard who helped her team to the Final Four
The former Oregon State guard capped her college career by being named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, earning All-America honors and helping lead the Beavers to their first Final Four in program history. Long credited with being the first high-profile prospect to believe in Scott Rueck’s rebuilding project at OSU, Weisner morphed into one of the country’s deadliest shooters as a senior and garnered consistent praise for her relentless, gritty playing style. She connected on 48 percent of her field-goal attempts (the highest mark for a Pac-12 guard) and on 44.3 percent of her shots from three-point distance, helping her average 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. “She’s legendary,” Rueck said. “From her freshman year on, she has set the tone in that area, and how vital is that for a program? You have to have somebody that you kind of look to and say, ‘OK, this person defines toughness for us,’ and I think Jamie’s the one that has done that.” She was originally selected by the Connecticut Sun in the second round of the WNBA Draft and spent part of the season on the Washington Mystics’ roster.
Jason Goodding:Seaside police sergeant killed in the line of duty
Goodding, Seaside police officer and married 39-year-old father of two, died in February after trying to arrest a man with a history of assaulting officers, police said. He was shot outside a downtown restaurant while taking a man into custody on a warrant tied to an earlier assault on a police officer.
Colleagues remembered Goodding as a keen listener who looked you in the eye and treated everyone like good people. He was a familiar figure on Seaside’s youth sports scene, primarily coaching his daughters in basketball and occasionally helping out with the boys’ program.
“It just sounds like we’re putting him up on this pedestal,” Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, the Gooddings’ next-door neighbor, said days after Goodding’s death. “But if any guy deserved to be on a pedestal, it was him.”
Carole Smith:Former Superintendent of PPS who retired amid lead scandal
After nine years leading Portland Public Schools, Smith was driven out in the wake of an epic lead scandal, in which years of missteps meant students and employees were exposed to tainted water, and lead dust and debris. Smith left a more positive legacy as well: Under her, the district’s abysmal graduation rate rose dramatically. And supporters say changes she accomplished, such as limiting transfers out of neighborhood schools, will better serve minority, low-income and second-language students for years to come. But critics worry the district will continue to suffer from Smith’s record of tolerating or excusing poor job performance, from promoting principals who bombed at leading schools to allowing sub-par performance by high-level administrators.
Jamie Shupe:State’s first legally non-binary person
Shupe did something in 2016 no one else in American history had ever done before, experts say: The 52-year-old Army veteran won a judge’s permission to legally identify as “non-binary” instead of male or female. Shupe, who began transitioning as transgender in 2013, worked with a lawyer to stake out new ground out of a strong sense that the traditional gender identifiers didn’t fit. “I was assigned male at birth due to biology,” Shupe told The Oregonian/OregonLive in June. “I’m stuck with that for life. My gender identity is definitely feminine. My gender identity has never been male, but I feel like I have to own up to my male biology. Being non-binary allows me to do that. I’m a mixture of both. I consider myself as a third sex.”
Vance Day:Indicted Marion County Circuit Judge
Day has become perhaps one of the most talked about judges in the state — after allegations arose in 2015 that he was covertly discriminating against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. After the state’s judicial fitness commission recommended in January 2016 that he lose his job based on this allegation and others, Day is still fighting — with a hearing set before the Oregon Supreme Court in May 2017. A website — www.defendjudgeday.com — states that his legal fees have topped $500,000. Day has said he’s defending his First Amendment and religious rights. As of November 2016, Day also has been contesting criminal charges that he committed official misconduct and twice enabled a felon to possess a firearm by giving a intoxicated driving defendant in his veteran’s court program a gun to handle or practice shooting. A trial date hasn’t yet been set.
Ashton Eaton:Still the World’s Greatest Athlete
The Bend native and former Oregon Ducks star maintained his grip on the title of world’s greatest athlete by winning the decathlon at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. Eaton tied the Olympic record of 8,893 points en route to the gold medal victory over France’s Kevin Mayer. His total trailed Eaton’s own world record of 9,045 he set at the 2015 world championships, but it was enough to bring home his second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the two-day, 10-discipline competition. He placed second in the first event, the 100 meters, but then won the long jump to take the overall lead and stayed atop the standings from there. Eaton joined Daley Thompson (1980 and 1984) and Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952) as the only decathletes to win gold medals in two Olympics.
Eddie Bolanos:Forest Grove walkout organizer
Bolanos, 20, is a staff member with Centro Cultural de Washington County and Portland State University student. On the evening of May 18, Bolanos listened to two Forest Grove High School students describe the “Build the Wall” banner that hung briefly that day in the school lunchroom. The students were upset but said there was nothing they could do. “Why don’t you do a walkout?” Bolanos suggested. Twelve hours later, through the power of that suggestion and social media, the Forest Grove demonstration was on. But that demonstration sparked other students throughout the Portland area, offended by that sign as well as other slights they had seen in 2016, to stage walkouts and demonstrations of their own. Bolanos later steered a core of students in Washington County schools toward a more lasting organization so that they would continue talking to school administrators into the 2016-17 school year.
Larry O’Dea:Former Portland Police Chief
The former Portland police chief who resigned in June as he was under criminal investigation for an off-duty shooting of his friend during an April 21 camping trip in Harney County. O’Dea was later indicted on a negligent wounding charge in Harney County. O’Dea didn’t acknowledge the shooting until reporters questioned the Police Bureau about it a month later. An internal investigation also was never initiated by O’Dea, his boss and police commissioner Mayor Charlie Hales or police internal affairs until the shooting became public. O’Dea retired after nearly 30 years with the Portland Police Bureau. He served as chief for a year and a half after rising steadily through the ranks. Hales appointed him to lead the bureau starting in January 2015 after former chief Mike Reese retired.
Kate Brown:First openly LGBT governor *made the list last year
Brown, appointed governor after Kitzhaber resigned 2015, dispatched a neophyte Republican challenger to officially win the right to finish her predecessor’s term. The vote distinguishes Brown as the first openly LGBTQ person elected governor in the United States. But it also sets her up for a challenge: After backing a corporate tax measure that died in November, Brown must help solve a $1.7 billion budget shortfall while soothing sore feelings among the state’s polarized political factions.
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You have until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 20 to vote for your favorite candidate for Person of the Year below. You can only vote once a day. We’ll announce the winner, as well as an update on that person, on Dec. 24.