In this continuing series, we are highlighting Partners and the skills they bring to the SVP Portland Partnership.
Sims Brannon grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, the member of a family with many generations of strong commitment to community service. For example, his grandfather was a school board member and city councilman. Sims graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in American History and earned a law degree at Stanford University. He spent his work career in real estate finance and development, with a focus of redeveloping projects to better fit community needs. Sims met his future husband Steve Fields (who had gone to Stanford Business School at the same time he was in law school) at a mutual friend’s birthday party in 1984. They were able to get married in 2008, when California allowed same-sex marriages for a short time.
After retiring from a super-intense work life in Los Angeles, Sims and Steve moved to the idyllic, spiritual community of Ojai, California to start an organic farm and spread the word about healthy eating and farming. Sims and Steve moved to Portland in 2011, ready to re-engage in urban living, but on a more livable scale than in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Q: There are numerous nonprofits with which you can be involved. Why did you choose SVP?
A: I was very attracted to the combination of contributing both financially and with personal service. I was raised to believe that financial giving is not enough — you should contribute both time and money, if you can. So, the SVP venture philanthropy model really fits with my core values.
Q: Of your engagements as a Partner so far, what has been the highlight?
A: My most compelling experience so far has been participating with the Equity Team. When I grew up in Nashville in the late 1950s and 1960s, I saw the Jim Crow South. Schools were still segregated and water fountains still had signs marked “white” and “colored”. On recent trips back, I found that while schools are supposedly integrated and the signs are gone, the racism is still palpable. Working with the E-Team is part of my personal equity journey. Work of this nature, confronting privilege and seeking allyship, is critical if we hope to eliminate racism in future generations.
Q: What lies ahead for you with SVP in 2021?
A: I am very excited at the prospect of using my real estate experience to assist our Community Partners in solving their operational needs, especially with locations for potential preschool programs.
Q: What are you most excited about doing as pandemic restrictions ease?
A: I’m a foodie. After retiring from business, I went to cooking school in Paris. This led to many things, including teaching cooking classes at our farm in Ojai and writing about food, wine, and travel. While I am unsettled on teaching cooking classes again, I do look forward to returning to Paris and enjoying all of its culinary experiences.