Hall Monitor 

So Long, Nancy

After a couple of weeks of speculation, Mayor Tom Potter's chief of staff, Nancy Hamilton, announced last Wednesday, December 13, that she was stepping down. The official line from the mayor is that she's leaving "to pursue other opportunities," but even Hamilton admits that the mayor's office needed her to hit the road.

Over the past two years, it's become apparent that Potter's office—represented by Hamilton—has lacked the ability to collaborate with the elected officials on city hall's second floor. Hamilton says she accepts responsibility for much of the problem.

"I am pushy and have been known to be aggressive," she said last Friday. "I could have done this better. In hindsight, I would have approached it differently."

"I didn't do enough of working the second floor, and I knew it," she added. "The hard part wasn't knowing it, but finding the time. The things that [get forgotten] are the things that aren't hitting you in the head—like building relationships with other people in the building... I didn't spend as much time in city hall as I should have."

When she was in the building, some say, Hamilton came off as abrasive and difficult to work with. But where some saw abrasiveness, others, like Commissioner Randy Leonard, saw "bluntness, firmness, and passion, much like Sam Adams [when he worked for Mayor Vera Katz]."

It begs the question—would city staffers have seen her differently, seen the same traits in a more positive light, if she was a man? Without blaming latent sexism for her PR problem, Hamilton says, "People use different words to describe women than they do men."

But that, as they say, is water under the bridge—what remains to be seen is whether Potter has learned his lesson. The mayor has gone public with comments that he doesn't "play politics." Unfortunately for him, "politics" means collaboration, communication, and compromise, and it's how things get done in city hall. And with 3-2 votes against him piling up, perhaps the mayor has seen that his old police commissioner-style tactics are no longer workable.

Two years into his term, with a decision on another run for office needing to be made soon, Potter has little to show. His "visioning" project appears headed for laughingstock status, and his charter review efforts (to create a "strong mayor" form of government) may not even make it out of council. Can Potter and his new chief, city hall vet Austin Raglione, pull his office out of a nosedive? Who knows, but it'll be fun to watch.

More Spin City than West Wing: smoore@portlandmercury.com

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