February 22, 2011  11:40 AM

Kitzhaber taps Metro's Jordan to become state's first chief operating officer

For nearly a decade, Michael Jordan has been the bridge between the Metro Council's political initiative and Metro staff's administrative abilities.

Starting March 28, he'll attempt to manage that role in "a deeper pond with bigger sharks."

Gov. John Kitzhaber on Tuesday announced that Jordan, appointed in 2003 as Metro's staff boss, will become Oregon's Chief Operating Officer, managing the day-to-day affairs of the state's government.

"I believe being the leader of public policy in a state and being the manager of state government is a role that no human being can do," Jordan said. "So, having somebody as brilliant and as talented as John Kitzhaber as the policy leader and political leader of this state allows somebody like me to come in and concentrate on the management side of delivering public services to Oregonians."

Kitzhaber initially offered Jordan a position as director of the Department of Administrative Services, which Jordan declined. That, however, led to a conversation about creating a new role to oversee all of the state's staffing and services.

The new position will require confirmation by the Oregon Senate.

"Siloed bureaucratic structures have inhibited the application of consistent business and management practices and continue to prevent the talented and committed state employees from performing up to their potential," Kitzhaber said in a news release. "Mike Jordan is the most qualified person in the state to lead meaningful reforms that will better serve the state and taxpayers. He did that at Metro and we look forward to his stewardship at the state level."

When Jordan was appointed as Metro's first COO in 2003, the agency was on the tail end of a massive structural change that saw the role of staff manager shift away from an elected Metro Executive, to the appointed role that Jordan is now leaving.

At a worksession shortly after his appointment, Jordan said he told the council Metro would know it's successful as an agency when local governments turned to Metro for help solving difficult problems.

"I'm not sure we're completely there yet," Jordan said Tuesday morning. "But I think we're a lot further down the road than we were in 2003. The Metro Council has changed its way of doing business enough that it is engaging with the appropriate stakeholders, no matter what the question is in the region, trying to develop a regional consensus around that question – and only then utilizing its power as an elected body with the real authority to implement that conclusion. That, to me, is a sea change from where we were eight years ago."

Jordan has a reputation for being a skilled and patient facilitator, working behind the scenes to find the political support to push forward controversial initiatives. He's also the architect of several Metro programs, including urban reserves, the Community Investment Strategy, Metro's construction excise tax and the restructuring of the management of Metro's visitor venues, including the Oregon Zoo, the Oregon Convention Center and the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

"Michael's leadership and vision transformed Metro into an agency that delivers innovative services and cost-effective operations," said Metro Council President Tom Hughes. Under Jordan's leadership, Hughes said, "Metro shifted from an agency focused on top-down regulations to a catalyst for innovative partnerships among public and private community leaders."

But will Jordan be able to translate that skill to state government? After all, Metro is a relatively tame environment as far as politics goes; meanwhile, one house of the legislature is split along party lines and another came within a hair's breadth of the same.

"Certainly, dealing with a 90 member legislature as your budget committee and policy body will be more complex than dealing with a seven member council," Jordan said.

But, he added, his experience working in both the political realm (Jordan has been elected as a city councilor in Canby and a Clackamas County Commissioner) and in the administrative realm (as Canby City Administrator and Metro COO) is crucial to being able to successfully carry out his new charge.

 "The idea of professional management is that, to the degree possible it keeps the politics out of the day-to-day administration of the work, yet has an ear that is highly sensitive to the politics and policy of the state. Our job … really is to carry out the legislature's and governor's business, but to do it in a way that's professional and effective and efficient."

Jordan's last day at Metro is scheduled for March 15. No information was immediately available about a process for selecting his replacement.

Metro news reporter Nick Christensen can be reached at nick.christensen@oregonmetro.gov or 503-813-7583. Follow Metro on Twitter @oregonmetro.

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