Colleen started working various jobs at a young age – taking her first waitressing job at 13. Working through school, she went on to receive her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology/Anthropology from Albion College in 1995. She quickly found herself in leadership roles ranging from Drum Major to President of Amnesty International and deputy Service chair of Kappa Alpha Theta. She also spent a great deal of time volunteering in local mentoring programs, teaching children to read and with the Special Olympics.
Colleen spent a brief time in Atlanta, where she worked in the Arts community as a Production Stage Manager, Lead Trainer for a restaurant during the 1996 Olympics, and as Records Manager for a law firm. In early 2001 Colleen found work in her field in Portland Oregon where she accepted a job as a Treatment Specialist working with children at a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility. There Colleen led an art therapy program and the recreation committee.
As she saw quality of care slipping she became a tireless advocate for the children and her co-workers. With the help of the Governor, she participated in settlement negotiations which ultimately resulted in improvements that benefited the children, workers and the facility.
Colleen was honored to learn that her name was submitted and added to the Wall of Tolerance at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama.
Having become politically involved Colleen became dedicated to helping candidates she believed in, get into office. She took a leave of absence from her job and worked for several months on the Presidential election. After receiving an award for her leadership in 2005, she was recruited by SEIU staff and membership to work for them as an Internal Organizer. Colleen worked with State Employees in every department across four Counties as well as being the Coordinator for the Department of Forestry Statewide local. She also worked with a City and Police unit and later with the County surrounding Oregon’s Capitol.
In 2009 Colleen got married and then welcomed her son Seamus in 2010. Colleen and Seamus survived Pre-eclampsia and H.E.L.L.P. Syndrome during his arrival which lead to her getting the City of Portland to declare a Pre-Eclampsia and Maternal Health awareness month. A new chapter was born along with Seamus as Colleen quickly spotted early indicators that her son was battling more than just prematurity. Colleen advocated for various therapies to help Seamus from birth.
When Seamus was just one, the two of them left Oregon and moved to Jackson County to be closer to her Mother. It was here that Seamus was formally diagnosed with Autism and mild Cerebral Palsy. After Seamus was denied essential treatment Colleen rallied within the community, working with Lifeways and reaching out to supportive agencies and even the Governor to ensure that Jackson County had a functioning therapeutic program for children with Autism.
Colleen made it clear during this struggle that it was not enough to get her son help, this needed to be a program for all families in a similar situation. Seamus was officially the first child in the Autism program which has rapidly expanded to multiple new facilities and now serves 100’s of families in Jackson.
In 2015 Colleen was awarded the “Courage to Fight Back” award from LifeWays for her work advocating for special needs families.
As a single mother, Colleen has spent the last seven years ensuring that Seamus is on a path to meet his potential. She fell in love with Harwoods addition in the 6th Ward and planted roots by purchasing a house on McBride Street in 2014. There she has created a therapeutic environment for her son in every aspect of their home life. Seamus himself is an incredibly hard working kid who has overcome so much that he is now looking forward to successfully completing private therapy and will be moving to a new ASD classroom this fall.
After Colleen’s Mother retired from the Girl Scouts, Heart of Jackson, she had more time to help with Seamus. This has created an opportunity for Colleen to follow her other passions and become more active in Jackson. She began attending City Council meetings and advocating in support of Jackson’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance. A lifetime advocate for equal rights across all lines, Colleen was a committed volunteer to passing the NDO, to the Pride Easter Egg Hunt that included a Special Needs area and at Jackson’s Inaugural Pride Parade and Festival this August.
Colleen also worked with community members at the grassroots level to organize a successful town hall on healthcare, a first time Candidate forum called Project Candidate, and other local events.
Colleen Sullivan’s commitment to her son Seamus, to Jackson, and to building community are exactly why she is running for Council. Colleen has the drive, the vision and a demonstrated history of working for and with all people throughout her life. Jackson is already a great city because of its people, but together we can make it greater by building our infrastructure, opportunity and neighborhoods up to be worthy of the incredible residents of Jackson.