Top Aide to Commissioner Dan Ryan Will Lead Office of Community & Civic Life After Interim Director’s Abrupt Departure

T.J. McHugh joined Ryan’s staff last fall after running Ryan’s successful reelection campaign.

Michael Montoya, the interim director of the embattled Office of Community & Civic Life, announced last week he was taking a temporary leave of absence, citing personal matters. Soon thereafter, the director of the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, Lisa Watson, announced her resignation.

Both officials reported to City Commissioner Dan Ryan.

On Tuesday night, Civic Life employees received an email from Ryan, announcing that his director of special projects, T.J. McHugh, would become the acting director of that bureau.

“T.J. has been serving as the liaison to OCCL, and now, he will work closely with the leadership team in Civic Life to focus on the mission,” Ryan wrote. “My priority is to ensure all of you that we will come together and deliver on our core mission to strengthen communities by supporting and empowering Portlanders to get involved with their local government through civic engagement, community leadership, and support for neighbors and businesses.”

The email comes after the two abrupt resignations last week, both first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

McHugh led Ryan’s reelection campaign last fall and, shortly afterward, joined the commissioner’s staff. McHugh is a newcomer to politics; for much of his career he worked as a top marketing executive at companies that included Nike, Macy’s and Target. He serves as board chair at Childpeace Montessori School and, until Ryan assumed leadership of the Office of Community & Civic Life, served as a board member of the Kenton Neighborhood Association. He also sits on the board of a nonprofit that teaches underprivileged kids how to sail.

Mayor Ted Wheeler recently placed the Office of Community & Civic Life under Ryan’s management as part of a larger bureau reshuffle. Ryan has since pledged to strengthen the network of neighborhood associations that were significantly weakened by former Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and, before her, Chloe Eudaly. (Both said neighborhood associations had long had an outsized influence in City Hall at the expense of renters and low-income Portlanders.) The bureau last year had an operating budget of $17 million and is responsible for helping coordinate neighborhood associations and address neighborhood issues.

Formed in 2011, the 20-employee Office of Equity operates with a $3.2 million annual budget and advises bureaus on issues of equity and social justice.

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