On the campaign trail, Tom Potter consistently promised he would spend considerable time outside City Hall and in the community--a welcome relief from the cloistered Katz. But to a large extent, this leaves Potter's chief-of-staff as his anchor back at City Hall. The Mercury caught up with Nancy Hamilton just a few hours after she settled into her new job.

Besides the Mercury's cynicism, what will be Tom's greatest challenge?

I'm not sure I can think of a bigger challenge. But if I had to put something in second place, it might be the challenge to work collaboratively--not thinking only about our own projects, turf, or concerns, but about what's best for the entire region. And, really, it isn't so much a challenge as it is an opportunity.

Tom is clearly concerned about public schools. But there also are other issues to tackle. How do you plan to keep the "fixing" of public schools from being a distraction from other responsibilities?

Having strong schools throughout Portland is not a distraction from the mayor's responsibilities and priorities. It's a core concern, as well as a priority. Our schools serve as the centerpiece of our wonderful neighborhoods. Also, strong schools are consistently among the top three on the list of major considerations for new companies considering relocating here--and for current businesses choosing to stay here. We know that when cities lose sight of strong public schools, communities falter and the divide between the wealthy and the poor increases. This is not what we want for Portland. Don't get me started about this one…

Is Tom going to take an active role with the pending PDC development plans for Burnside Bridgehead?

Tom has consistently stated he opposes a big box approach to that development project. Several opportunities for public--and council--input will present themselves in January. He intends to be very involved in those discussions.

You have a reputation for being a straightforward and upfront administrator. Are you worried that playing second fiddle will take restraint?

Criminy, no. I don't see myself playing second fiddle to anything. It's simply not about that. Tom believes that he is the public servant with whom the buck stops. I see myself as a public servant who, with Tom's leadership, can help make Portland a better place for the community. You may think that's hogwash--but I truly believe it and that's what's drawn me to this challenge.