Karen Packer is currently First Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. She previously served as Second Vice-Chair of the Party. She also served one term as finance chair and two terms as Chair of the Democratic Party of Washington County, where she is credited with helping to build that party to its current dominant position in the region. Karen currently serves as a board member of the NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Advisory Board, as well as on the Emerge Oregon Executive Board.
Karen was born in postwar New York City in 1945, the middle child of second generation Norwegian and Jewish parents. When she was 3 years old, her family packed up their belongings and drove the Alcan highway to Anchorage, Alaska, where she had a happy, carefree childhood in what was until 1959, a U.S. territory. Early memories include watching the moose browse in her backyard, helping to build the family summer home on Lake Kenai, and the spectacular celebration when Alaska gained statehood.
She left Alaska to attend college in Washington state where she graduated from University of Washington with a B.A. degree in English. In her freshman year, she went on a blind date with a young Washington engineering student, Steve Packer. They married three years later and joined their fellow students as Vietnam war protesters, which continued when husband Steve took his first job in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Life in Minnesota, under the influence of George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale honed Karen’s political activism. It also, as it did for many young progressive women of the era, introduced her to the feminist movement. As such, Karen was active at the Minnesota legislature as a citizen lobbyist for abortion rights and other women’s issues.
A career move took the Packers to Orange County, California, where they they concentrated on growing and educating their young family which had grown to 3 children. The move to Beaverton Oregon in 1981 found Karen becoming an education activist by helping to build an architecturally designed Montessori school and early in 2000 becoming a founder of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation. She also started and grew her home-based, high-tech marketing communications firm, WordCraft, Inc.
She lives on a Christmas tree farm in rural Washington County with Steve and Colby, the “yellow dog Democrat.” Her 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren live in the Seattle area.
Party Office Holder
First Vice-Chair, Democratic Party of Oregon