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Rob Sadowsky let go by board of The Street Trust (formerly known as the BTA)


Sadowsky this past summer.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Board of Directors of The Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) just announced that Executive Director Rob Sadowsky is stepping down has been relieved of his duties effective immediately.

The former deputy director of the organization, Stephanie Noll, will take his place as an interim leader until a new director is found. Noll left The Street Trust back in July.

Here’s the full statement from The Street Trust:

The Board of Directors of The Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) announced today that Rob Sadowsky will be stepping down as Executive Director, effective immediately. The Board has asked Stephanie Noll, the former Deputy Executive Director of The Street Trust, to step in as interim head of the organization and has launched a national search for the organization’s next executive director.

The Board of Directors expects the search process to take several months; during that time, Noll will guide the organization through the transition and ensure that our critical work educating and advocating for walking, biking and riding transit. Rob provided excellent leadership at the BTA when we needed it most, providing five years of stability and guiding us through the mission expansion process to becoming the Street Trust. We know that he is ready for his next challenge and is ready to pass the reins of Street Trust to our next leader as we begin the next chapter of our work.

The Board and staff of The Street Trust remain deeply committed to the long-term vision of building a place that embraces biking, walking and transit for all those that call our region home. All of us want safe, healthy streets for our kids, our aging parents and our families, and as community leaders, we are well aware that we have much work to do if we’re going to get there. We look forward to working with community and philanthropic partners, local governments and most importantly, our members, to create safe and healthy streets for all.

Sadowsky was hired in 2010. This move comes just a few days after The Street Trust officially changed its name and started a new chapter with an expanded mission. At an event today the organization will ask members for input on a major update to their strategic plan. We’ve confirmed that the event will go on as planned and Noll will be in attendance.

The Director of The Street Trust Board Justin Yuen said today in a phone interview that this move is part of the “evolution of the organization.” Yuen credited Sadowsky with bringing The Street Trust to this point but couldn’t comment specifically on why he was stepping down. Yuen said the next executive director would be, “someone with existing lines of communicationm with the community and someone who has demonstrated success with taking things to the next level when it comes to addressing the urgency of Vision Zero.”

Yuen also stressed that this change in leadership is a major opportunity for The Street Trust to hear concerns and feedback from the community about the organization. “We recognize there is the urgency out there, but also scrutinty of the organization,” he said, “So we want to make sure, as the board, that we are a good steward of The Street Trust.”

UPDATE, 11:55 am: Sadowsky shared with me in a phone interview that this move came as a complete surprise. “I had not expected this,” he said. “It’s an odd moment to say the least.” He said the Board likely made the move because they want someone who is more adept at raising money and more willing to spend the time it takes to do it. “I’m not the greatest at that type of fundraising. I spent all my December making fundraising phone calls, when I’d rather have been doing advocacy… Now it’s time for The Street Trust to bring in someone who maybe has a little more love for the political game and someone who loves the fundraising.”

Sadowsky said he’s proud of the job he did building the organization over the past six years and he has “no hard feelings” about the board’s decision.

“If they can find the right person to come in and leverage our community partnerships, institutional partnerships, and political partnerships, it’s going to be fantastic,” Sadowsky added. He said he has put The Street Trust in a great position for success. “The stage is set to win meaningful regional transportation funding — not just a few million dollars — for biking, walking and transit.”

As for his proudest accomplishments, Sadowsky credits his personal advocacy for bringing bike share to Portland. “I walked into this town and there were people saying ‘We don’t need it.’ We [The Street Trust] went to the mat for that [bike share]. I had to convince our board to work on it and I had to convince our staff to work on it.” He also credited his behind-the-scenes conversations with Portland mayors Sam Adams and Charlie Hales for brining Vision Zero to town.

Because the decision came as a surprise, Sadowsky doesn’t have any work lined up just yet but he has a few balls already in the air (including a possible gig with a consulting company called SG Endeavors).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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