August 12th, 2010 | by MARK ZUSMAN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Environment

Bragdon Leaves Portland for New York To Plant Trees (and Other Stuff)

David Bragdon

We caught up with David Bragdon at the end of the day yesterday in New York City, not long after the announcement that he was quitting his leadership of Metro to take a job as the director of New York City's long-term planning and sustainability.

In essence, Bragdon will be Mayor Michael Bloomberg's point person on a variety of city-wide initiatives, from planting trees and converting taxis to hybrid vehicles to making the city more bike-friendly.

Bragdon's job as head of Metro was due to end in January. And that's when either Bob Stacey or Tom Hughes, who are facing each other in a runoff this November, will take office as president of the regional planning agency.

The 51-year old Bragdon, who was born in New York City but moved to Oregon when he was 12 (his father, Paul, was president of Reed College), told WW that for several months he has been exploring his options about what to do next. He said he had applied for a job in Madison, Wisconsin and had been talking to various engineering and planning firms in Portland. Bragdon says he first considered the New York job when he met then-director Rohit Aggarwala, who told Bragdon that he was leaving to move west.

While Bragdon interviewed with almost a dozen people before he got the offer and spent much time with deputy mayor Stephen Goldsmith (who was once the mayor of Indianapolis), he didn't actually meet Bloomberg until yesterday, Aug. 11.

"The mayor's office is like a bullpen, like a Japanese trading desk," said Bragdon. "It has maybe 20 desks in it, with the mayor in the middle. There's a big screen that is split into six, with one screen showing road conditions in the city and another showing CNN."

What did they talk about? "He looked at my resume and wanted to know if Evergreen ever did work for the CIA." (From 1990 to 1993, Bragdon was a sales manager for Evergreen International Airlines, the McMinnville-based aviation company that has employed a number of ex-CIA field agents and is widely believed to have done contract work for the CIA overseas.) Bragdon says he told Bloomberg that he never saw any evidence of CIA connections during his time at Evergreen.

What else did they talk about? Bragdon says he was munching on some salted almonds when Bloomberg, who has initiated several efforts to change the diets of New Yorkers, walked in and "he mentioned that nuts are bad for me. He also talked a bit about congestion pricing."

Bragdon will be paid $172,000 in his new job, a significant hike from his current salary of $114,000 as head of Metro but perhaps a wash when you consider the cost of living in New York.(Bragdon says he will look first for a place to live in Brooklyn, not Manhattan.)

When asked about the longstanding rumors that had he stayed in Portland, he might have run for mayor in 2012, Bragdon admitted that he "certainly thought about it," but claims he never really explored the possiblity.

When asked about his greatest accomplishment and biggest regret at Metro, he echoed what WW said about him earlier--that he brought Metro's fiscal house in order and added vast amounts of green spaces to the region, but that he was never able to do a good enough job at resolving the endless debates over whether and where the Urban Growth Boundary ought to be expanded.

Finally, when asked if he were excited about his new job, Bragdon said, "Yes, but frankly, I'm a little bit intimidated. There are a lot of smart people here." We're sure he meant no slight to the Portland region.
 
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