In another slight shift for the Portland Bureau of Transportation—actively in the hunt for a new director while also grappling with the best way to change directions in response to Mayor Charlie Hales' push for paving—the Mercury has learned that both of PBOT's media relations hands are stepping down for new jobs.
Spokeswoman Cheryl Kuck is moving over to a community outreach job with the city's Bureau of Environmental Services, while spokesman Dan Anderson told PBOT staffers he's taking a "great professional opportunity" outside Oregon. The departures come amid news that 44 people have applied for the bureau's top job, the fruits of a national search launched after Hales asked former director Tom Miller to step down. Hales appointed former maintenance chief John "Toby" Widmer to run the bureau on an interim basis.
The departures also come after Hales' team asked Miller to suspend hiring for a deputy director post that would have directly overseen the bureau's communications shop. So are the moves indicative of some kind of restructuring in a bureau that's received a bit more political and media glare, of late, than some others?
"It's a coincidence," Anderson says of his and Kuck's near-simultaneous departures. "It wasn't planned, and it definitely was under good terms, and it was not a restructuring."
It's unclear whether one or both jobs will be filled permanently in light of the search for a new director—and in the face of citywide budget cuts and PBOT's struggle to redirect its own revenue (mostly tied up in big-ticket infrastructure projects enthusiastically approved by city council) toward road maintenance.
Update 11:15 AM: Dana Haynes, Hales' spokesman, said both Anderson and Kuck did "a great job" and are "a loss" for the bureau. The mayor's office's "first instinct" is to wait for a permanent director and maybe bring in an interim flack. PBOT's communications work, Haynes reminds, aren't just about strategically responding to reporters and pushing out story ideas. It's also about getting the word out to regular Portlanders about specific paving projects and road closures and snow alerts and crosswalk stings, etc.
"We totally don't underestimate that," he says.
Anderson made $71,482 in 2012, according to a Portland Business Journal database of city salary information. Kuck earned $79,255.