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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Portland City Club Announces New Boss: Sam Adams

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 11:44 AM

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Former Mayor Sam Adams has kept a low profile since leaving city hall last month—practically vanishing on Twitter—even as speculation about his eventual landing spot has continued to percolate all around city hall and other political circles.

Adams, turns out, didn't wait too long to figure out his next act (what, he's got bills like the rest of us!). And it's a job, depending on how he does it, that might weirdly allow him to keep a high profile in political and policy circles. Adams, it was announced today, will take over as executive director of the City Club of Portland.

Adams had already promised he wouldn't wind up working for any private actors that did business with Portland on his watch. That left nonprofits and government as likely landing spots—and a lot of tongues wagged about whether the self-styled "education mayor" might wind up at Portland State University. Which, of course, he didn't.

The job may raise eyebrows—because I bet you money you couldn't name the last executive director of the place without looking it up. And while it's a must-stop on the campaign trail for political candidates, and hosts events like the State of the City, City Club usually finds itself drawing mostly older, white, and well-paid Portlanders.

Maybe that could change under Adams—who stood at the Governor Hotel in 2011 and announced a new city equity office. Here's the quote he fed to City Club's news release:

"In my new role at City Club I can continue to encourage exceptional urban public policy in a region I love, on behalf of an organization whose tradition of unbiased, citizen-led policy research remains unique and imperative in today's hyper-partisan environment," said Adams. "I also look forward to helping City Club engage a broader, more diverse group of voices from across the community as its research, advocacy and programs evolve."

I'll be most interested, though, in how Adams might approach the group's policy research arm. Years as the city's chief executive never dulled his love for white papers and wonkiness—a bad thing, for some people. And good, sharp reports will let both Adams and City Club make a lot of noise.

Will Adams take on his successor, Charlie Hales, by obsessively checking his work? Will he tweak old frenemies like County Chairman Jeff Cogen? Will he be willing to unsparingly criticize his own legacy?

And I think everyone is eager to see how things play out at the next City Club debate in 2014 when someone like Dan Saltzman or Nick Fish looks down from their lectern and sees and interlocutor who knows intimately how much bullshit, or how little, their answers might contain.

Hit the jump for the full City Club release—including glowing testimonials from groups like the Portland Business Alliance who found Adams, all in all, not as difficult a working partner as some advocates would have liked.

The City Club of Portland has hired former Portland mayor Sam Adams, a prominent figure in local and regional politics for the past 20 years, as its new executive director.

"Sam is an ideal fit for City Club as we approach our 100-year anniversary," said Pat McCormick, City Club president. "He has a compelling vision and personal passion for civic engagement and public policy, deep knowledge of the community and a diverse network of relationships among community, business and political leaders."

The City Club's choice followed an extensive three-month search process conducted by a diverse committee of City Club members. The search attracted more than 80 applicants from across the U.S. The recommendation from the search committee was endorsed by the Club's Board of Governors on January 14. Adams will take over as executive director on January 22.

"In my new role at City Club I can continue to encourage exceptional urban public policy in a region I love, on behalf of an organization whose tradition of unbiased, citizen-led policy research remains unique and imperative in today's hyper-partisan environment," said Adams. "I also look forward to helping City Club engage a broader, more diverse group of voices from across the community as its research, advocacy and programs evolve."

Prior to serving as Portland mayor from 2009-2012, Adams was a Portland City Commissioner for four years. He was chief of staff for Portland Mayor Vera Katz from 1993 to 2003, and previously served as a policy assistant for U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio.

As Portland mayor, Adams held national and regional leadership positions, including chair of the Metro Economies Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He served with the National League of Cities and the Oregon Mayors Association. He co-founded All Hands Raised, Greater Portland, Inc. and the Creative Advocacy Network. He is involved with a variety of organizations including Basic Rights Oregon, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Portland Streetcar, Inc. and the Cascade Aids Project.

Adams has a B.A. in political science from the University of Oregon and is a graduate of South Eugene High School.

City Club of Portland is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic affairs organization that promotes civic engagement and active citizenship to build a stronger community. Through unbiased research and compelling programs, City Club connects citizens with ideas and issues that affect our community. City Club is open to everyone who wants to interact with other citizens and shape the future of our city and state, providing a neutral forum for many diverse voices. For more information about City Club of Portland, visit www.pdxcityclub.org or call (503) 228-7231.

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Reactions from Community Leaders:

"Sam Adams has the strong, diverse relationships to connect the work of City Club to include and benefit even more Portlanders. We look forward to working with him in his new capacity." - Gale Castillo, president of Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber

"Sam understands the key role that successful non-governmental organizations play in keeping a city moving forward. In recent years, I sat with Sam behind the scenes as he helped build two much needed non-profit groups: Greater Portland, Inc and All Hands Raised." - Sandra McDonough, president of Portland Business Alliance

"Sam has demonstrated time and again that he cares deeply about education and Portland's youth. He has been a champion of one Portland, paying close attention to the needs of east Portland in both word and deed." - Karen Gray, Parkrose School District superintendent

"This is great news for the City Club and Portland's civic health. The City Club has untapped potential to improve the local quality of life for all Portland communities." - Midge Purcell, director of advocacy and public policy at Urban League of Portland

"Sam can broaden the perspectives of the City Club to better reflect Portland and Oregon's new diversity. He will help make sure that the issues affecting poor families and those barely-getting-by are included on the City Club's agenda." - Felisa Hagins, political director of Service Employees International Union Local 49

"As was highlighted last week in USA Today's column, "Welcome to the 'radical middle'", Sam works across the political spectrum to find agreement on solutions most all can get behind." - Kevin Palau, president of Palau Association

"Great decision to hire Sam by the City Club, his knowledge of and passion for the whole city is virtually unmatched." - Chris Coleman, artistic director of Portland Center Stage

"Sam Adams and City Club is a great match. His passion for policy is unparalleled, and he will bring a consistently thought-provoking perspective to discussions in the grand City Club tradition. He also brings energy and experience in non-profits that will help ensure that the City Club stays current and vibrant." - Elisa Dozono, partner at Miller Nash

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