As Gov. Tina Kotek rounds out the hiring of new agency directors, two finalists have emerged for one of the most visible government executive jobs in Salem.
WW has learned that the remaining candidates to replace Richard Whitman as director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are interim director Leah Feldon, a longtime senior DEQ staffer, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an environmental lawyer.
McLeod-Skinner, who lives in Terrebone in Central Oregon, ran for higher office in the past three election cycles, losing to then-U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in 2018 in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District; placing third in the 2020 Democratic primary for secretary of state behind eventual winner Shemia Fagan; and then in 2022, narrowly losing (by 2 points, or about 7,300 votes) to now-U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) in the 5th Congressional District. (McLeod-Skinner handily defeated former U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary.)
Technically, the five-member Environmental Quality Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, will make the call on who gets the top DEQ job. But given that DEQ is at the center of climate battles in Salem, it’s likely the commission and Kotek will want to be in sync.
Whitman, who resigned last year, found himself at the center of a yearslong controversy as lawmakers sought to pass aggressive carbon-reduction measures in recent cycles. When Republicans walked out of the Capitol to block that legislation, Gov. Kate Brown enacted similar measures through executive order.
It will now be up to whoever succeeds Whitman to enact Brown’s orders and to hold polluters accountable. A decision on the appointee is expected next month.