The city agency charged with answering 911 calls finally has a new director.
Mayor Ted Wheeler today announced the appointment of Bob Cozzie as director of the Bureau of Emergency Communications.
"It is a key step in improving bureau operations and providing strategies to improve staff retention, all which are essential to providing efficient and effective service to our community members in need," says Wheeler in a statement announcing the appointment of Cozzie, who most recently served as the director of Clackamas 911 for 12 years, according to he mayor's press release.
BOEC suffered major management problems, identified last year by the city ombudsman. In particular, it had vastly underestimated for years the amount of time callers to 911 from cell phone calls had to wait on hold.
Cozzie interviewed for the job a year ago, during a director search launched by Commissioner Steve Novick, who lost reelection in November 2016.
The year-long delay in Cozzie's appointment highlights a key weakness of Portland's commission form of government—where the commissioners are both managers of bureaus as well as elected legislators for the city. That can result in frequent changeover in management of bureaus—and can cause the direction of the agencies to veer erratically.
Wheeler assigned the bureau to Commissioner Amanda Fritz after Novick left office, and Fritz rejected all the applicants for the director search after a second round of interviews.
"We did not have the robust pool of candidates that we hoped for when we inherited the process, and while we did go forward with second interviews, we felt none of the candidates rose to the level we were seeking for a permanent director," Fritz's chief of staff Tim Crail told WW last May.
Fritz, through Crail, declined to comment today.
Wheeler assigned BOEC to Fritz from January 2017 to April 2017. Then the mayor took control of all the bureaus during the budget process. But Wheeler took the unusual step last spring of not giving BOEC back to Fritz and instead assigning her only one bureau, Portland Parks and Recreation. It was the second time he'd taken a bureau away from Fritz after management problems were identified.
Despite the year-long delay in naming Cozie, the mayor's office says there were nonetheless key changes that have taken place under the interim director Lisa St. Helen, who will go back to being operations manager at the bureau. They say the bureau has now adopted nationally recognized standards for measuring performance and worked with the county and the city to better response to emergency calls.