David Shaff

Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff, for 10 years the head of the Portland Water Bureau, announced this morning he'll retire on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. That will spawn a national search for a replacement, says water Commissioner Nick Fish, at a time the water bureau is enjoying less controversy than it has in years.

"While there have been some bumps and frustrations along the way, I can easily say that I regard my time here as challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling," Shaff wrote in an email to city staff this morning. "However, it's time to move on and look for new challenges, rewards and fulfillment."

He didn't mention specific plans after June 30, but said he'd stay on with the city if a replacement hasn't been found.

Shaff's been with the city for far longer than a decade. Prior to serving as water bureau administrator, he worked as a labor negotiator for the city, hammering out contracts with unions. He also worked as a policy adviser in then-Commissioner Randy Leonard's office before Leonard installed him atop the water bureau in 2005. What began as an interim appointment has lasted until today.

The waters haven't always been placid in that time. Shaff, Leonard, and city council as a whole caught heat from a ratepayers group in 2011 for spending money from water bills on things like the infamous "water house" and the Portland Loos—projects that critics said weren't explicitly tied to getting Portlanders water, as required by the city charter. A lawsuit around those and similar expenses is still playing out in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

And last year, some of the same faces—along with a bevy of big industrial interests—launched a campaign to snatch the water and sewer bureaus away from city hall. A measure that went down in flames in May 2014 would have put the bureaus in the hands of a new volunteer utility board.

Shaff has also had to contend with the furor that resulted from a decision to disconnect drinking water reservoirs on Mt. Tabor—a move city leaders have said is required by the federal government, but which activists think is unnecessary.

There have been other fun predicaments, too—such as the question of what to do with millions of gallons of drinking water after a teen peed in the Mt. Tabor reservoir.

All that aside, that water bureau has been seen as a safe bet by Wall Street, meaning Portland is able to borrow money for water-related projects at cheaper rates than other cities. Hit the jump for emails from Shaff and Fish, regarding today's announcement.

Shaff's email to city hall staffers:

Mayor Hales, Commissioners Fritz, Novick and Saltzman, Auditor Hull-Caballero, and Fellow Bureau Directors,

I recently let Commissioner Fish know that I intend to retire effective June 30, 2015, my 37th anniversary as an employee of the City of Portland and my 10th anniversary as the Administrator of the Portland Water Bureau.

Commissioner Fish has asked me if I will stay on beyond June 30th if necessary while he and his staff conduct a search for a new director and I have said that I would.

I cannot describe how proud I am to have worked for the Portland Water Bureau these last ten years. My entire career at the City of Portland has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, but these last ten years have been the most special.

I have enjoyed my collaboration with each of you over the past ten years and am confident the City of Portland is in good hands. While there have been some bumps and frustrations along the way, I can easily say that I regard my time here as challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling. However, it's time to move on and look for new challenges, rewards and fulfillment.

June 30th is a ways away yet, but I suspect the time will fly. I will do my best to keep you informed about next steps, and hope to be able to connect with many of you in person between now and then.

David G. Shaff, Administrator
Portland Water Bureau

Fish's email to city hall staffers:

Dear Colleagues,

Today, Portland Water Bureau Director David Shaff announced his decision to retire after 37 years of service to the City.

While I was surprised by David’s decision, I respect his choice and am grateful that he has committed to work with me and the bureau on a transition plan.

Since I was assigned to lead the City’s two utility bureaus in June 2013, I have admired his dedication and professionalism, his willingness to explore new and better ways of doing business, his customer service ethic, and his strong commitment to using ratepayer dollars wisely. David has been instrumental in recruiting and developing a high performance team at the bureau

I intend to launch a national search for his successor, and look forward to working with David to ensure a smooth transition.

Please join me in thanking David for his 37 years of service to our City.

Thank you,

Nick Fish