Former transportation chief named PDC director

Bruce A. Warner, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), has been named executive director of the Portland Development Commission (PDC).

Warner replaces Don Mazziotti, who resigned earlier this year and whose last day was June 30.

Warner will take over the embattled agency, which is responsible for economic development for the City of Portland, on Aug. 1. In the interim, Judy Tuttle, a policy analyst for the Office of Management and Finance and a chief of staff for former Mayor Vera Katz, will serve as the director.

Labor’s reaction to Warner was mixed.

Initially, the Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council opposed the three finalists on a short-list forwarded by a special search committee appointed by Mayor Tom Potter. The other candidates were Karen Williams, a partner in the law firm of Lane Powell Spears Lubersky, and David Knowles, a former METRO councilor now working for a private transportation and land development management firm.

The building trades council sent a letter to Potter asking that the search be extended.

“Bruce has my full support,” said Mayor Potter. He will bring strong leadership during uncertain times and strengthen PDC’s internal controls and its relationships with citizens, stakeholders and public officials. I believe he will embrace the changes that may be needed at PDC and effectively implement them to the benefit of PDC staff and the public.”

Bob Shiprack, executive director of the Oregon State Building Trades Council, said Warner has always been respectful of labor’s issues in his role at the transportation department.

“I believe he has a genuine interest in what labor thinks. We have met with him quarterly at his request (at ODOT) and he was always very cooperative. His style is much different from Mazziotti’s.”

Mazziotti, PDC Chair Matt Hennessee and some staff have been under fire for months for no-bid contracts to friends, inside deals with staffers and contractors, and lavish spending on meals and alcohol by the executive director — all at taxpayers’ expense.

PDC operates on a $240 million annual budget.

“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of it,” said Shiprack. “Clearly, Bruce Warner will bring a big change to PDC, but there’s a lot of work to be done there.”

PDC has for years operated “under the radar” with little public scrutiny, Shiprack said. Its free-spending and creation of the Portland Family of Funds bank, a private spinoff of the agency, drew the attention of the City Club of Portland, which released a scathing report questioning the propriety of its relationship with the bank and lack of public accountability.

Shiprack said that under Mazziotti and Hennessee, PDC “developed its own culture. It reminds me of SAIF Corp. years ago when claims handlers were pushed to deny claims. When that culture sets in, it’s not something that can be turned around overnight.”

After Potter was elected mayor, he vowed to make the agency “more transparent.”

Warner brings more than 30 years of executive experience in a broad range of public works, public administration, economic development, land use and transportation positions to PDC. As director of ODOT, he managed a biennial budget of more than $2 billion and a workforce of 4,600. Prior to joining ODOT, he served as chief operating officer and as the director of Regional Environmental Management at Metro.

Warner holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Washington.

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