Carla Piluso grew up in Multnomah County, Oregon. As a child, she remembers her parents’ work ethic and strong sense of family. Carla’s father built the house they lived in, and her parents and three siblings rarely missed a meal together.
Carla was first in her family to finish college. She graduated from Willamette University with degrees in Political Science and Speech. When Carla completed her senior project as an intern for the Oregon State Police, she got to observe the state’s first female troopers. The challenges of being among the first female troopers stuck with Carla, until she achieved her own ‘first’ as Gresham’s first woman Chief of Police.
In 1979, Carla began working here for the Gresham Police Department, and served for 30 years. She was the first woman to be promoted through every rank, eventually serving as the Chief of Police for six years before retiring. As Chief, Carla fought to keep our children safe by funding School Safety Officers and securing $1.5 million to fund the East Metro Gang Enforcement Team, which still combats gang crime in our community. She also focused heavily on domestic violence, and was one of the first to access funds from the federal Violence Against Women Act to better serve the community. She still puts on a domestic violence vigil annually in Gresham.
Even after she retired, Carla remained involved in East County’s public schools. She spent time in classrooms across Gresham and volunteered as the announcer for our high school women’s basketball games. Carla eventually ran for the Gresham Barlow School Board, where she is still serving.
Public service matters to Carla. She was a member of the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families, and Community for twelve years. Carla now serves as the Board President of Human Solutions. Based on her own experiences serving the community, Carla would say that public safety, education, economic development, and poverty are too often addressed separately, rather than as interconnected issues. Carla prefers a holistic approach to tackling these matters in East County and in Salem.
In 2014, Carla was elected to represent House District 50 in the Oregon Legislature. In her first term, Carla secured funding for education and afterschool programs for East County’s at-risk youth, worked with women veterans to create the state's first Oregon Women's Veteran Coordinator, and fought to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. She was sworn in for her second term in January of 2017, and hopes to protect education, serve East County’s young children and families, address affordable housing, and continue to improve public safety.
Carla has accomplished quite a bit, but she is most proud of raising a bright, kind, and intelligent daughter name Kate. Just like Carla, Kate graduated from Willamette in 2015 and is now a teacher in New Jersey, serving at-risk youth. When Kate is back in town, the two of them enjoy watching a musical together or catching a Portland Thorns game.
Just like us, Carla’s not one to shy away from rolling up her sleeves and getting to work. She is proud to call Gresham her home, and will continue to advocate for East County as our State Representative in Salem.