Arthur Towers, who until today was Service Employees International Union Local 503's top lobbyist, will join the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, the latest in a series of moves touched off when Curtis Robinhold, formerly the chief of staff to Gov. John Kitzhaber took the number two job at the Port of Portland in February.
In the close-knit world of Oregon politics, one move often causes a series of others. When Robinhold joined the Port as the heir-apparent to Port Executive Director Bill Wyatt (also a former Kitzhaber chief of staff), the move made the Port top heavy.
That freed up the Port's public affairs director Tom Imeson (once chief of staff to former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt and transition director for Govs. Kitzhaber and Ted Kulongoski) to move to NW Natural. There, Imeson re-joined CEO Gregg Kantor, who worked for Imeson in the Goldschmidt administration.
Imeson's departure created space for the Port to hire Kristen Leonard, a contract lobbyist for both SEIU and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.
Leonard's move to the Port left OTLA without a lobbyist, so the group hired Towers, who long ago established himself as organized labor's top political tactician, to join as a staffer.
In what's probably not the final domino to fall in the chain reaction Robinhold started, SEIU Local 503 then promoted Melissa Unger to replace Towers. Towers leaves his spot at one of the state's three big public employee unions at a time when the Democratic majorities he helped build in both chambers of the Legislature appear solid and the nearly potential ballot measures that threatened labor's political power in Oregon are on the scrap heap.
"It's an opportunity that I really couldn't pass up," Towers says of the move to the OTLA. "I'm sad to leave SEIU but thrilled to be taking on a role that will help expand access to justice."