Denny Doyle and his second in command balance out-of-state travel, daily administration

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle says his time out of state to pursue federal grants and business opportunities for Beaverton works well with Randy Ealy, the city's administrative officer, serving as mayor pro tem, his right-hand man.Randy Ealy wears a lot of hats at Beaverton City Hall.

His five years as Mayor Denny Doyle’s right-hand man has included titles such as chief of staff, assistant to the mayor and chief administrative officer, his latest official moniker.

When Doyle is out of town on business or vacation, Ealy becomes mayor pro tem — the de facto mayor of Oregon’s sixth-largest city. If the elected mayor were unavailable, say, in the case of a disaster or emergency, Ealy would represent the city to the public and make executive decisions until Doyle returned or could be reached.

Most of the time, Ealy’s role changes little in the mayor’s absence. Even when Doyle is overseas pursuing business opportunities — as he was in April when he visited Osaka, Japan — the multi-tasking mayor is rarely more than a phone call, text message or email away.

“I think it works pretty well,” Ealy says of the pro tem arrangement built into the city of Beaverton’s charter. “Technology being what it is, Denny is always readily available for a phone call. His calendar and mine are side by side on computer screens. We know where each other is at 24/7. While I’m back here doing day-to-day (administration), he’s working for the city in D.C. or a regional meeting in Portland. It’s what I signed up for.”

A matter of trust

While some believe a strong-mayor/administrator role like Doyle’s should focus on nuts and bolts of running the city, Ealy notes such a strict approach would inhibit the mayor from using his talents for the betterment of Beaverton.

“His strength is his charisma and extroverted personality,” he says. “Where he’s best is out and up with the public and representing us among other mayors and city managers. That’s where we need him. We don’t need him looking for where a comma goes in a 50-page legal document.”

While most Beaverton city councilors support the arrangement, which lets the mayor lobby for federal grant funding and business opportunities for the city, not everyone likes the idea of a mayor who is out of town for as many as 60 days in a year.

“They mayor isn’t hands-on because he’s gone too much,” says Councilor Betty Bode. “It’s a question of, if the strong mayor is a full-time mayor for the city, how can he be gone for a third of the time?”

While she understands the need for a mayor to lobby on behalf of the city, Bode would like more information about what is gained on the mayor’s trips to Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Japan.

“Citizens have a high degree of trust in city government,” she notes. “I think that trust is fragile if we don’t keep it transparent and tell the community what we’re doing. I don’t see us doing that enough.”

The city’s Budget Committee is proposing a $19,000 mayoral travel budget for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year, a slight reduction from previous years, in which Doyle has remained within or slightly under budget on travel.

Getting things done

Although Doyle doesn’t routinely deliver reports to the council, Bode is the only one of the five councilors who doesn’t maintain a monthly one-on-one meeting schedule with the mayor.

Doyle says he makes a point of being as open as possible with councilors, staff or anyone who wants a breakdown of how he spends time away from City Hall. He also maintains that, with Ealy as mayor pro tem, his travels create no negative effect on the city’s day-to-day administration.

“It’s not been a problem,” Doyle says. “There’s this thing called the iPhone and the iPad. I’m always making decisions. I never let go. I drive my wife insane.”

The mayor’s most recent overseas trip, in early April to the cities of Osaka and Tokyo, Japan, was part of a Business Oregon-sponsored excursion designed to recruit Japanese businesses to the region or encourage existing businesses to expand. He was accompanied by representatives from other jurisdictions, including the cities of Hillsboro and Salem, Metro regional government, the Port of Portland and Portland Development Commission.

Doyle visited three companies with Beaverton locations including:

n OG Corporation, a specialized trading company that sells, exports, imports and manufactures dyes, pigments, industrial chemicals, resin products, pharmaceuticals, machinery and related software products

n Gigaphoton Inc., which develops and markets user-friendly, innovative laser light sources and delivers them to major lithography tool suppliers in the global semiconductor industry, and

n PLUS Corporation, which provides office and stationary products to large and small retailers and wholesalers, catalogs and TV shopping networks.

The mayor also toured a Panasonic factory and attended two “Doing Business in Oregon” seminars, which provide information on how to set up businesses in the state.

Although the itinerary is still in flux, Doyle and his staff are hopeful a June visit from representatives of 15 to 20 companies interested in establishing Oregon manufacturing sites will include Beaverton.

Face-to-face value

South Beaverton resident Gary J. Kniss, a retired Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter and self-appointed watchdog of how taxpayer money is utilized, says he’d have more confidence that Doyle’s travel expenses and time are well spent if his efforts were quantified and publicized as such.

“I have yet to hear anything about the results of his visits,” Kniss says. “I try to keep my ear pretty well to the ground, but we don’t get letters saying, ‘As the result of your trip ...’ documenting what was accomplished. It would be nice to see a letter from (U.S.) Senator (Jeff) Merkley’s office with that information.”

Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey, while part of a mayor-council type of government rather than Beaverton’s paid strong-mayor arrangement, recognizes the value of targeted travel, particularly when it comes to federal grant dollars that can benefit an entire region. He cites meetings Doyle and Washington County Commissioner Andy Duyck had in Washington, D.C., with Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant officials in early March that could reap notable dividends for Portland’s Westside.

“Denny met to go over his grant, and Andy Duyck did the same thing,” Willey said. “You can’t do that by email or telephone. You have to be face to face on those things. If you’re not sitting across the table, it’s like you’re not committed to it.”

Willey and Doyle frequently find themselves on the same travel circuit to meetings of the National League of Cities, Business Oregon and trips to D.C. sponsored by Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation.

“If we didn’t go to Washington, D.C., particularly at the national level, but even at the state level, you’ll be left out of the funding loop,” Willey says. “When you fly an airplane across the country, they get the message that you’re serious about it.

“That sends a strong message.”

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