Former Portland bike racer and advocate now interim director of ODOT’s Climate Office

Susan Peithman. (Photo: ODOT)

Susan Peithman, a former Portlander who was a staffer at the nonprofit advocacy group, The Street Trust and a serious bicycle racer, is now interim director of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Climate Office.

Peithman will serve in the position while current Climate Office Director Suzanne Carlson rotates over to serve as administration of ODOT Public Transportation Division for one year.

Peithman will be the third person to lead ODOT’s Climate Office since it was established in spring 2020 in response to former Governor Kate Brown’s executive order on climate change. The office’s main charge is to monitor and inform ODOT’s progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. Peithman’s varied background in the transportation world should serve her well in leading that effort.

Peithman moved to Portland in 2007 with an expressed goal of getting a job in the “nonmotorized transportation” world. How do I know that? Because she was quoted saying it in a glowing NY Times profile of Portland’s bike culture in 2007. And Peithman did just that, by landing a job at Alta Planning + Design and then becoming a policy advocate at the nonprofit Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now The Street Trust) in 2009. Her experience in that role included time on the advisory committee for the controversial North Williams Avenue project.

Peithman’s first taste of statewide policymaking came when she was named as a member of ODOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in 2012 and served as its chair for four years (until 2016). Also in 2013, Peithman was hired as the research and education program administrator at the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University. Then in 2016, Peithman got her first job at ODOT as their active transportation policy lead.

Since 2016, Peithman has had several jobs at ODOT, including a stint as a manager of the Public Transportation Division.

“I’m excited to use my policy and program experience as the Climate Office director over the next year,” said Peithman in an ODOT statement Friday, December 1st. “The office has made great strides in the short time since its creation, and I plan to continue the momentum. I have a personal passion and professional commitment to supporting ODOT as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and prepare for future climate events.”

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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BipBoop
BipBoop
7 months ago

Susan didn’t make the trip to France, even says that in your linked article.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago

Need to try a little harder, Jonathan. 😉

jakeco969
jakeco969
7 months ago

 “I have a personal passion and professional commitment to supporting ODOT as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and prepare for future climate events.”

I wish her well in her endeavors. Hopefully she focuses more on the inevitable future climate events to include mass human migrations, water temperature change with resultant upheaval in food stuffs and transportation, drought, insect outbreaks, wildfires and of course deadly heat islands that remain a hallmark of urban life.
With all the potential good she can do to develop plans and operating procedures to counter these real world scenarios I can only hope she doesn’t worry too much about cutting back the greenhouse gas emissions from one state ranked 27th in population without the support of an overarching federal plan.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Yes, when I read that quote I wondered:

Will “personal passion” be enough to overcome decades of bureaucratic and cultural inertia at ODOT – not to mention the wider state context in which automobility is viewed as necessity?

Also, will “personal passion” please do something to fix the crumbling asphalt surface on SW Barbur in front of Fred Meyer?

jakeco969
jakeco969
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

It’s not looking like “personal passion” is going to be enough. According to the “what about the office” blurb on the ODOT site…..
https://www.oregon.gov/odot/climate/pages/about.aspx
One of the priorities of the office is…

The office’s Sustainability Program conserves resources, such as materials and fuels used in ODOT business and operations, and includes efforts like the Oregon Solar Highways Program.

I guess they’re conserving the use of asphalt at that location?

Nick
Nick
7 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Think of the crumbling asphalt as free traffic calming

Hoss6057
Hoss6057
7 months ago

So any comment that doesn’t accept that climate change is a possible earth ending issue is thrown out? Thin skinned are we? How about a true discussion on this hire? You have tossed every Dissenting post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Hoss6057

I’m human, I woke up this morning feeling really intolerant of trolls. Gosh, I’ve lost track of how many I’ve put in the trash so far.

Here’s the thing, trolling discourages a diversity of opinion by disrupting the conversation and turning it into a dumbed-down food fight.

We’ve got a big range of opinion in the BP comments, do you read them?

Nick
Nick
7 months ago

I really appreciate how the comments here are generally good, especially compared to places like willamette week where it’s a race to the bottom of discussion.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Nick

I appreciate you saying that, Nick, thank you.

Rebecca
Rebecca
7 months ago
Reply to  Nick

I second that – the quality of the comment moderation here is what keeps the conversation civil and makes the BP comment section one of the few on the internet where you can read the discourse and come away feeling like you’ve learned something new, instead of feeling like you’ve lost a little love for humanity.

X
X
7 months ago

It’s good for ODOT to take a view of climate change. Things like river levels, tidal flows, rainfall, snow accumulation and temperature variations in general have a huge impact on ODOT infrastructure and operations. There’s a non-zero probability that some of those things will change markedly in our lifetime. Would we want ODOT to take the political view that those things just aren’t real?

Laura
Laura
7 months ago

I wonder how important this office and their mission is, given they’ve had 3 directors since 2020, and it appears that this appointment is only for a year.

Happy Guy PDX
Happy Guy PDX
7 months ago

Jonathan,
Is she for or against the widening of I-5?

David Guettler
David Guettler
7 months ago

Susan puts her heart and soul into her work. If there is a person who can truly make a difference in that position, I’d put my money on her.