Portland will wait until after the November election to hire a new top administrator for the city, and the search could stretch into 2024 if voters approve in November a leadership overhaul proposed by the city’s charter commission.

The commission’s recommendations would do away with a city manager in favor of a “chief administrator” with less authority.

But the City Council is still starting a search for a new city manager, and on Monday approved a $6,370 contract with the Baker Tilly search firm to cover the initial phase. The council voted unanimously to approve the contract.

“It will be a very different job description (if the commission’s changes are approved) so all we can do … is continue under our current charter,” Mayor Kate Snyder said in an interview before Monday’s council meeting. “We can do the work we’re obligated to do and that it’s our responsibility to do under the current charter. So we figured, ‘OK, let’s keep that work going.’ We’re going to be ready.”

At the same time, Snyder said that if the charter commission’s recommendations – which add to the powers of the elected mayor and diminish the role of the city’s appointed top administrator – are approved, the job description and hiring process will be “totally different.”

That means the search for a permanent administrator for the city could stretch into 2024, after a new executive mayor is elected in November 2023.


Interim City Manager Danielle West was appointed in October, after Jon Jennings, the former city manager, took a similar job in Clearwater, Florida. West previously served as the city’s corporation counsel.

“In an ideal world you’re moving from interim to permanent as quickly as you can,” Snyder said. “But in this case we can’t move quickly and we’re lucky to have an experienced long-time employee of the city serving as our interim.”

Asked Monday if she is interested in the job on a permanent basis or if she would be willing to continue serving as interim into 2024, West said in an email that she is waiting until after the November election to make any final decisions.

Between now and November, the city will work with Baker Tilly on initial search steps, including creating a job candidate profile and preparing materials about the city that would go out to candidates.

“If the charter commission changes are not approved by voters, we will be ready to roll into the next phase of hiring a permanent city manager,” Snyder said. “That work would start in earnest in December, and our hope is we could make a hire and have someone in that position in March.”

The commission’s proposed changes to city leadership, which will go before voters in the Nov. 8 election, would place more authority in the elected mayor. The mayor would take the lead in developing the city’s budget and could issue executive orders and veto council decisions. The chief administrator would still oversee department heads, but unlike the city manager, would report to the mayor, not the council.

Right now, the City Council hires the city manager, but under the commission’s proposal the mayor would nominate a chief administrator for approval by the council. The council also would expand from its current nine, including the mayor, to 12 members. But the mayor would no longer serve on the council.

Snyder has joined more than a dozen former mayors, most of whom were appointed by the council, not elected, in opposing the charter commission’s strong mayor proposal on the grounds that it would give too much authority to one person. Snyder said Monday that she doesn’t plan to seek re-election in 2023 if the proposal passes.

“I don’t think it’s the right governance model for the city of Portland,” Snyder said. “It puts too much power in one elected official and I think creates a tension between a body of 12 elected officials who are policy makers and an individual elected also as a policy maker.”

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