Felicia Williams is an Air Force veteran, civil rights historian, biotech business manager, and avid volunteer. She has extensive real world experience on issues of emergency preparedness, housing, and public safety. But most importantly, she has a passion for doing the work necessary to make Portland an affordable, safe, and thriving place for everyone.
Felicia served in the United States Air Force for five years working in Command and Control. While there, she led communications support for command staff during emergency situations. She also developed and implemented emergency checklists, classified material handling policies and procedures, as well as trained Command Post personnel on the safe handling of classified material. Responding to events ranging from plane crashes to gas leaks, and tornadoes to mass casualty scenarios has given Felicia unique experience with managing chaos.
After completing her military service, Felicia moved to Portland and immediately realized that it was the first place she had ever felt truly at home. She spent her first three summers working as a wildland firefighter and medic in the Pacific Northwest while also attending college. After finishing her B.A. from the University of Portland, Felicia attended graduate school at Portland State University, focusing her research on race, education, and urban renewal. This work led directly to the creation of the PDX Civil Rights Project, an oral history course Felicia taught at both the University of Portland and Portland State University. Felicia educated undergraduate students about Portland’s history, drawing on her original archival research, and coordinated their interviews with members of Portland’s African American community; the forty interviews are archived at the Portland State University Millar Library. Research from the PDX Civil Rights Project was used in Felicia Williams’ and Ethan Johnson’s seminal article, “Desegregation and Multiculturalism in the Portland Public Schools”, an article that influenced Portland Public Schools policy around the administrative transfer program. Additional public presentations from Felicia’s original research included the Martin Luther King, Jr. street renaming in Portland, the NAACP’s fight to end segregation in Portland’s public housing during the early 1960s, and a thorough examination of the Portland Development Commission’s partnership with Emanuel Hospital to bulldoze the African American community in Albina.
Felicia joined the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) Board of Directors in 2010, and has served as president since 2011. She also represents the DNA on the Neighbors West-Northwest (NWNW) Coalition Board of Directors and has spent the last two years as the NWNW Board president. Her leadership has facilitated partnerships with social service providers, community groups, City bureaus, and local businesses, resulting in numerous initiatives that have helped to make downtown safer for residents, employees, and students. Affordable housing is a critical concern for the neighborhood, and the DNA was an early supporter of the effort to overturn the statewide ban on inclusionary zoning. Other efforts under Felicia’s leadership include emergency preparedness for high-rise buildings, addressing and improving public safety in downtown, and advocating on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities for increased housing options.