After a career with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) that has spanned nearly a decade, Scott Bricker has been named their new executive director.
His selection comes after a nationwide search and a final decision made by the BTA’s Board of Director’s this weekend.
Bricker has been with the BTA since 1998, when the organization had just three full-time staff and focused their advocacy solely on Portland. Now, the BTA is a regional and national player (Bricker recently flew to Washington D.C. to testify in front of a Congressional committee) with 15 full-time staffers (and another 15 seasonal and part-time) and 4,500 members.
“This will be an evolution…I’m looking to re-structure the entire organization and I’m looking for feedback on how to do it. It will take a while to evolve.”
For the past three legislative sessions, Bricker has made a name for himself pushing bike-related bills through the halls of Salem. Now, he’ll officially pass that torch to Karl Rohde, who the BTA hired as their government relations and public affairs director back in August.
Born and raised in Monroe, New York, Bricker moved to Portland in 1994 to work at Metro as a transportation planning intern. In 1998 he received his Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State University and was hired by the BTA later that year.
I sat down with Scott a few weeks ago, just after he assumed interim leadership of the organization.
He said he already had plans to meet with each employee and “as many stakeholders as possible” to get an assessment of where things stand and talk about potential changes.
He spoke about how he wanted to bring about an “evolution” at the BTA. “I’m looking to re-structure the entire organization,” and he was quick to add that he’s, “looking for feedback on how to do it.”
He said one of the major challenges they face is a lack of administrative support. “We’re hiring one administrative person and we’d like to hire two. This will free up staff to do more advocacy.”
Bricker went on to say that along with hiring more help he is trying to, “build in capacity to react so we can do project-level advocacy like the Sellwood Bridge, enforcement issues, etc…”
Back in July, the BTA’s ability and/or willingness to react to pressing local bike issues became a public conversation when concerns about their focus were aired on a local email list. The message, which specifically called out a quote by Bricker from a local newspaper, struck a nerve. While some replies offered support, others shared pointed critiques and questioned the BTA’s impact in Portland metro-area issues.
One person wrote, “The BTA has little relevance for bike commuters, and seems to be focused on influencing PDOT and Salem.”
I asked Bricker about that email.
“I would have liked to have heard about those feelings in a different way…The people that have had grievances with me don’t even know me. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but if you want to talk with me, give me a phone call. That being said, the community concerns did get my attention.”
Bricker says he learned from the email episode.
“We learned if we engage the community we will get better ideas. It was hard to hear it like that, but we still have to be strategic about what [projects and issues] we [choose to] work on.”
It all boils down to communication, and Bricker feels they can do better.
“I don’t think we’re good communicators at this point. We haven’t had a strategic approach to our communications. At our first staff meeting [after Manvel left], I asked the staff to communicate better and more frequently. Some staff don’t feel comfortable posting to the blog…but we’re all getting better at that.”
Going forward, Bricker said he’s excited to be in his new role and to spend more time in the community, something his former position didn’t allow him to do.
At the time we spoke, Bricker hoped he’d get this job and he felt that hiring someone from within, who already knows the culture, would be a plus. “We need to hit the ground running. I’ve been around long enough to understand the organizational structure we need to build in order to make us successful.”
Congratulations Scott! I look forward to you and the BTA playing a pivotal role in Portland’s bike future…