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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hales' Interim Transportation Chief Also a Campaign Contributor

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Charlie Hales this morning announced John "Toby" Widmer, the city's former maintenance bureau director, as his interim pick for the Bureau of Transportation—celebrating a city official who "came up through the ranks,” "understands that street maintenance is his first priority," and "could start up every piece of equipment in the maintenance yard and run it.”

But that's not the only thing that makes Widmer stand out: He's also a campaign donor. Campaign finance records show Widmer gave Hales hundreds of dollars toward his run for city hall, most recently with a $50 check last month. Update! That initial figure only looked at contributions under Toby Widmer—Widmer, using his given name, also cut an additional $600 check. And, as Toby, he gave $500 back in 2011. The actual total is $1,650.

It's a slightly sticky subplot for a personnel move that has the aura of a political housecleaning. Widmer will replace Tom Miller, former Mayor Sam Adams' ex-chief of staff, who took over the bureau in 2011 without the benefit of enduring a national job search. Hales campaigned on his desire to oust Miller, complaining about that lack of a national search, and made good on that promise as soon as he took office. (And let's not forget that Hales hasn't been a model citizen when it comes to enforcing standards for campaign contributions, before or after the election.

Hales' news release highlights the 61-year-old Widmer's deep ties to Portland and 28 years of experience before his retirement from the city in 2002, the same year Hales left politics for the private sector. The goal is to let Widmer run things for six months, while that national search plays out and Hales leads PBOT and the rest of the city through budget season.

Asked for a comment, Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, says he wasn't aware Widmer was also a donor and was checking with the office to see if anyone else knew about before he was hired. With the caveat that even if they did, it may not have been seen as an issue.

Another ex-city official whose name Hales has floated as a potential helper during budget season, ex-Parks Director Zari Santner, had given Hales $1,550. Of Hales' 14 city hall staffers, only one gave him money during the campaign. Ed McNamara, a policy director and affordable-housing developer making $84,656, gave Hales $800 $1,300.

Read Hales' full release below.

PORTLAND, OR – Mayor Charlie Hales today announced that Toby Widmer will come out of retirement to serve as interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 22, and serving for six months.

Widmer formerly served as the Director of the city’s Bureau of Maintenance, which was part of the former Portland Office of Transportation.

“Toby came up through the ranks,” Hales said. “He was driving trucks and laying asphalt. He understands that street maintenance is his first priority.”

Tom Miller, the current transportation director, has announced his resignation as of Feb. 4. A national search for a permanent director will commence for the bureau, now called PBOT, later this year after bureaus are re-assigned to commissioners.

John “Toby” Widmer, 61, is a 1969 graduate of Roosevelt High School and 1974 graduate of Portland State University. He retired from the city of Portland in June 2002 after approximately 28 years in service.

“Toby is exactly who we need in the interim,” Hales said. “He’s a PBOT director who could start up every piece of equipment in the maintenance yard and run it.”

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