Metro Council President David Bragdon selected to guide New York City's urban transformation
Bragdon will leave office four months early, capping legacy of sustainability and collaboration
David Bragdon, who has built his Metro Council presidency on sustainability and collaboration, announced Wednesday that he will leave four months early to pursue the same ideals in New York City at the invitation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Beginning in mid-September, Bragdon will serve as director of long-term planning and sustainability for the nation's largest metropolis. He will lead the mayor's PlaNYC initiative to create a "greener, greater" city.
"Being able to do that is, like Metro Council President, a dream job for me," Bragdon said this week in an interview. "It involves all the issues that I care about, in a place that I really care about. It involves natural area restoration, recycling of solid waste, improved transportation, infrastructure that we need for the future."
Bragdon's last day on the Metro Council will be Sept. 7, ending nearly a dozen years at the regional government. He won a district council seat in 1998, and was elected council president by voters across the Portland metropolitan area in 2002 and 2006. His term was scheduled to end Jan. 6.
"Based on David's experience and skill set, he's a perfect fit for what Mayor Bloomberg hopes to accomplish," said Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler. "I think it's a tremendous opportunity for David and the City of New York."
During nearly eight years at the helm of Metro, Bragdon has focused on protecting natural areas and the environment, transforming the way the region plans for growth and making the agency more collaborative and financially responsible.
Bragdon championed a $227 million bond measure that has protected 2,500 acres – so far – for water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities. He also launched The Intertwine, a regionwide movement to create a world-class network of parks, trails and natural areas.
Under Bragdon's leadership, the Metro Council provided landowners and local communities with a clearer vision of future growth. Metro worked with local governments to select "rural reserves" that will not be developed for half a century and "urban reserves" that make good candidates for growth.
The Metro Council has changed not just what the agency does, Bragdon says, but also the way it does business. He pushed a conservative approach to budgeting; called for a more efficient, collaborative staff structure; and emphasized Metro's role as a convener rather than a regulator.
In the coming months and years, Bragdon says, he'll follow Metro's Community Investment Initiative – a shift toward working with the private sector to invest in the region's future, rather than just planning for it.
"A lot of times, in this job, you're thinking about things that won't come to fruition for 20 or 30 years, long after you leave office," Bragdon says. "That's part of the appeal that makes this an interesting agency. There are always things left undone."
Before coming to Metro, Bragdon worked in the transportation industry. He served as marine marketing manager at the Port of Portland and worked in India, China and the Soviet Union as a cargo sales manager for Evergreen International Airlines.
Bragdon, who moved to Oregon with his family at age 12, was born in New York City. In his new job, he'll lead sweeping initiatives to improve his hometown's urban environment and establish New York as a global environmental leader.
The mayor's PlaNYC incorporates five key dimensions: land use, water, transportation, energy and air quality. Bragdon will incorporate solid waste into the plan while coordinating city agencies' work on more than 100 initiatives, such as planting 1 million trees, creating a public plaza in every community and reducing emissions from taxis and school buses.
For such a far-ranging plan, Bloomberg said, Bragdon's background at Metro was a perfect match. "With nearly a decade of experience as the leader of a respected regional planning agency, David has a rich experience looking across agencies and entities to create a vision for a sustainable future, just as we have done with PlaNYC," the mayor said.
Bragdon will officially step down as council president at noon on Sept. 7, naming Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette the acting president. After that, councilors have the option of voting on an interim president – including Collette, another one of themselves or any eligible resident of the region. Whoever serves as president will fill Bragdon's role until Jan. 6, when the winner of the November election takes over.
Bragdon is on a whirlwind trip to New York, where he will be formally introduced and meet his new staff. He returns to Portland on Thursday, in time to attend the weekly Metro Council meeting, trek to Eastern Oregon for friends' 50th wedding anniversary celebration – and start packing.
"I bet at some point this weekend, on the way to or from Baker City, it's going to start to sink in," Bragdon said. "And I'll probably get a little wistful about it."