Former PBOT director Tom Miller back in City Hall as mayor’s livability director

Posted by on August 16th, 2021 at 2:39 pm

Tom Miller at a PBOT event in August 2012.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The latest shakeup to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s staff includes another name that will be familiar to many of you: Tom Miller. After adding former mayor Sam Adams to his team back in January, Wheeler has now brought on Adams’ former chief of staff. Miller was Adams’ most trusted advisor during his ascent in local politics until Miller was named Bureau of Transportation director in 2011.

Now Miller, the former skateboarding activist and major fan of bicycling, is back to work at City Hall as director of sustainability and livability. He takes over a role left vacant when Amanda Watson departed from Wheeler’s office back in July.

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Miller is expected to focus on two core areas: On the livability side he’ll sit on Wheeler’s “Clean and Green Action Table” that focuses on litter clean-up, illegal dumping, graffiti removal, human waste removal, abandoned cars, and street cleaning; and on the sustainability side he’ll focus on big-idea projects like climate change initiatives and environmental policy.

While he’s not likely to focus directly on transportation issues (since Portland already has a commissioner in charge of that in Jo Ann Hardesty), Miller’s work on litter clean-up and illegal dumping could intersect with the persistent and complicated issue of how encampments impact the public right-of-way. In the past several years, Portland has seen an explosion of trash and the amount of people living and storing their belongings on street shoulders, sidewalks, and multi-use paths.

While Sam Adams was widely heralded as one of the most bike-friendly leaders in America during his political career (which was likely cut short by scandal when he admitted to having a relationship with an underage intern), insiders often credit Miller as his cycling north star. Miller was part of a Portland delegation that visited Amsterdam in 2005 and he was such an advocate of bike share that in 2008 he wrote a six-part series about the topic for BikePortland. When Miller took the reins of PBOT in early 2011 he made his support of protected bike lanes very clear.

Two years later, Miller resigned at the request of incoming mayor Charlie Hales. Miller remained in Portland since leaving City Hall and worked as an executive recruiter before taking on this new role in Wheeler’s office.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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David HampstenGo big bike guy. Recent comment authors
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David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

From what I observed, PBOT staff had an utter contempt for Tom Miller while he was director.

Go big bike guy.
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Go big bike guy.

Most likely because he was trying to enact needed reforms (for example working to increase bike share). Change is hard, especially for a road/car centric bureaucracy such as PBOT.

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David Hampsten

I agree with you, particularly as he was an “outsider” political appointee who knew next to nothing about bureaucracies nor really anything about transportation either. He was however very smart and likable.

Go big bike guy.
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Go big bike guy.

So glad to see Miller in this position. He’s well-educated, compassionate and sharp as a tack. That’s a super tough assignment but with his experience and “can-do” attitude I’m confident he will make inroads. The pro-bike history is just an added plus. Good luck Tom!