Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 20th, 2013 at 9:20 am
"She found someone she felt she could trust with day-to-day operation of the bureau and could have authority to act in her absence when she's away. Greg knows this place from top to bottom like no one else."
— Dylan Rivera, PBOT Communications Manager.
Six months after taking the helm of Portland's transportation bureau, Director Leah Treat has appointed an agency veteran to take over several major responsibilities. Greg Jones, a planning and project management veteran who has worked for the City of Portland since 1980 is now the deputy director of PBOT. Treat made the appointment official earlier this month.
This is the first time PBOT has had a deputy director since it was formed in 1983. PBOT Communications Manager Dylan Rivera said via a telephone interview yesterday that the move is an acknowledgment of the immense task of managing "one of the largest and most complex bureaus in the City." PBOT has over 700 employees and a $275 million (or so) annual budget that completes a diverse range of projects from a dizzying array of funding sources.
Back in November, Treat told The Oregonian that leading PBOT is a "big job" and that she's "only one person."
In a December 2nd email to PBOT staffers to announce the hire, Treat explained that the hiring of Jones would, "Free up some of my time to focus on strengthening our local, regional and state partnerships; it will ensure I focus on our Back to the Basics goals, and that there will be a person authorized to act in my absence."
The "Back to Basics goals" Treat refers to is the focus on paving and maintenance that Mayor Charlie Hales ran on and that has become PBOT's top priority program. The appointment of a deputy will also free Treat up to strengthen relationships with regional partners at key decision-making bodies like Metro's JPACT and Portland City Council. The move also gives Treat more time to help Commissioner Novick on the upcoming transportation funding effort.
In his new role, the 60-year-old Jones will take over the day-to-day operations and management of PBOT. Jones' has served in many capacities at the bureau through the years, most recently as manager of the Development & Capital Program where he oversaw 14 employees working on programs like Streetcar Projects & Operations, Development Services, and Right-of-Way Acquisition. Now he'll also be in charge of the Transportation System Management group, which includes about a dozen employees and key programs like Transportation Options, Safe Routes to School, Transportation Planning, Traffic Design, Traffic Safety, Traffic Operations, and more.
In her December 2nd email, Treat tried to make it clear that Jones' responsibilities don't mean she's out of the picture: "I want to make clear that I will still be heavily involved in the work plans for the groups Greg oversees. This change in no way diminishes my commitment to these groups nor should it be considered a demotion of their importance within the Bureau. We will continue to work together as one."
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)
And Jones echoed that sentiment during our phone call yesterday: "Leah will continue to play a heavy role in any policy decision related to transportation planning. She's still going to be heavily involved."
Also during our conversation on Thursday, Jones referred to himself as "kind of a dinosaur" at PBOT given how long he's been at the bureau.
In the late 1980s, under then Transportation Commissioner (and now U.S. Congressman) Earl Blumenauer, Jones was involved in the implementation of the Division Corridor Project which created the SE Clinton and Lincoln/Harrison system of traffic calmed streets that became the city's first bicycle boulevards. Jones was also the lead planner at PBOT in 1997 when the city widened the Hawthorne Bridge deck to make more room for walking and biking. In 2001, Jones said he helped re-organize the transportation bureau and hasten their shift "toward the concept of complete streets." Jones said the new approach to "build everything at the same time" is evident in older projects like Marine Drive's extension into Rivergate that includes bike lanes, a sidewalk and a separated bike path through a major industrial area, and more current projects like the Cully Boulevard cycle track. Jones' most recent work has focused on streetcar operations and management.
Asked how he gets around town, Jones said he usually takes the bus. As a resident of the Garden Home neighborhood in southwest Portland, Jones said he's tried bicycling but, "It's a little dicey from where I live."
Jones will play a major role at PBOT and his appointment came without a national search or a formal recruitment process. Mayor Hales made political hay during his election campaign when former Mayor Sam Adams appointed his own chief of staff (Tom Miller) to the PBOT Director position. Hales forced Miller to resign back in January of this year and then initiated a national search for his replacement. Asked how Treat's appointment of Jones looks in this context, PBOT's spokesman Rivera said, "This is an appointment at the director's discretion. She found someone she felt she could trust with day-to-day operation of the bureau and could have authority to act in her absence when she's away. Greg knows this place from top to bottom like no one else."
And Jones added that it's common knowledge at PBOT he's nearing the end of his career. "This allows Leah to work towards doing a national search for [for a deputy director]. As I get closer to retirement, she'll have ability to do a more formal recruitment. This gets her a buffer to get some immediate work done."