Shakeup at Oregon Transportation Commission as two members step down before terms expire

Marcilynn Burke and Robert Van Brocklin. (Background photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland. Inset photos: State of Oregon)

Two members of the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) have decided to step down before the end of their terms. The OTC consists of five unelected members who oversee the budget and policies of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

OTC Chair Robert Van Brocklin sent a letter (PDF) to Governor Kate Brown in November stating that he was ready to step down. “I believe that the newly elected Governor should have the opportunity to choose her own leadership team,” Van Brocklin wrote. “Including by making appointments to the boards and commissions of the State.” Van Brocklin, a lawyer and former government lobbyist, joined the OTC in 2017 and was named as its leader in 2019. Van Brocklin will step down from his term at the end of June.

Van Brocklin’s last OTC meeting will be May 11th — just as debate heats up over a bill that would raise $1 billion for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program. Van Brocklin has been at the center of difficult conversations about how Oregon pays for several freeway expansion projects ODOT is working on around the Portland region. At an OTC meeting in March 2022 he and other OTC members sounded alarms and shared skepticism about how the state would pay for the projects.

In a statement about his departure provided to BikePortland, Van Brocklin wrote:

“I am proud of what we have accomplished during my tenure as chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission. We have worked hard to make our transportation system more accessible and equitable for all Oregonians. Because of the work of the commission, Oregonians will soon experience less congestion, enjoy cleaner air and find it easier to travel by any means they choose. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served our state.”

Also leaving the OTC before the end of their term is Commissioner Marcilynn Burke. Burke was named to the OTC in November 2021 and her term goes through June 2024. ODOT’s Glenn said in a phone call this morning that the reason for leaving was the large time commitment required by OTC members. Burke is also dean of the University of Oregon Law School. Burke’s departure was announced at the OTC’s November meeting.

Burke is the third Black OTC member to leave the commission in the past three years. Maurice Henderson, a former manager at Portland Bureau of Transportation, served just four months of his term before leaving for a job at the US Department of Transportation in 2021. Former OTC member Alando Simpson served all eight years of his two terms which ended last year.

Three current OTC members: Julie Brown, Sharon Smith, Lee Beyer.

As per their charter, the OTC must have five commissioners to represent every region in the state. The absence of Burke and Van Brocklin reduce the body to just three members. Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has already acted to replace the outgoing members. A source has shared a new list of nominations from the governor’s office that include two new names floated as possible new OTC members: Alicia Chapman from Portland would replace Burke, and Jeff Baker from Lake Oswego would replace Van Brocklin. I’m still working to learn more about each of those nominees.

This major reshuffling at the OTC leaves current Vice Chair Julie Brown as the most veteran member. Commissioner Brown, a former general manager of the Rogue Valley Transportation District, has served on the OTC since 2018 and her current term goes through the end of June 2024.

Commissioner Sharon Smith’s first term is set to expire this June and we haven’t heard whether or not she’ll seek a second one.

The newest member of the OTC, longtime state legislator and former Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation Lee Beyer began his first term back in January and his term expires in June 2025.

From here, Governor Kotek will nominate a new OTC chair and then the Senate will move to make final appointments. That will likely happen at the end of this legislative session.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Granpa
Granpa
1 year ago

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss “

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Granpa

I won’t get fooled again.

Doug Klotz
Doug Klotz
1 year ago

Alicia Chapman is associated with a metal fabrication company near the St Johns Bridge. They make boats, lock gates, etc., that would presumably ship by truck. And this person is proposed to be the representative from Portland? The one place in the state where presumably non-trucking interests would have a greater voice??