Mayor Wheeler to Pull All Bureaus Under His Control Come July 1

The city has six months left to fully transition into its new form of government. First step: consolidate the bureaus under one leader.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. (Brian Burk)

Come July 1, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will pull all city bureaus under his control as the city tumbles toward its new form of government, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

“During this six-month transition period leading up to January 2025, we will test and refine our new processes,” Wheeler wrote to city employees in a Thursday afternoon email. “This proactive approach ensures that we will be fully prepared for a smooth and effective transition when the new government structure officially takes effect.”

Wheeler’s colleagues on the City Council knew that the mayor would assume control of the bureaus this summer, but according to sources close to the matter, it’s still unclear how, exactly, that transition will affect ongoing projects that commissioners oversee. Next year, the new form of government will see all bureaus managed by a professional city administrator, while members of the City Council focus on policy and passing legislation. Under the current form of government, each council member oversees a portfolio of bureaus.

Wheeler’s announcement makes one thing in particular clear: City commissioners will hand over operations of their individual bureaus and instead focus on policy and legislation in preparation for how the new form of government will work.

More specifically, the city’s interim chief administrator, Michael Jordan, who works under Wheeler, will oversee all six of the city’s freshly appointed deputy city administrators. It was just this spring that members of the City Council appointed someone of their choosing to a deputy city administrator position.

“These changes are designed to create a more efficient government where the city council focuses on policy setting and legislative functions, while operational management is streamlined under the city administrator, supervised by the mayor,” Wheeler wrote in his email to city staff.

Commissioner Rene Gonzalez expressed some doubts in a statement. “It is imperative that we continue to perform as a city government in 2024 while delivering the new form of government on January 1, 2025,” he wrote. “We have concerns about the mayor’s capacity to absorb bureaus pursuant to the plan, but we will support unconditionally a smooth transition.”

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