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Brown withdraws resilience officer nominee


The governor's office determined there was inadequate support for confirmation in the Senate.

Salem - Gov. Kate Brown has withdrawn her nominee for a new state resilience officer position after her office determined there were inadequate votes in the Senate to confirm him.

Legislators created the position in 2015 to oversee and centralize policy guidance of the state’s plan for reducing risks and improving recovery from the next catastrophic Northwest Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and potentially corresponding tsunamis.

Brown’s nominee, Derek Smith, a former CEO of Clean Energy Works, had no experience in disaster response or recovery.

“When I saw that nominee, I scratched my head,” said Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn. “I’m not sure how she chose this name out of a laundry list of people who have the skills to do the job.”

Parrish is a member of the House Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness that worked on the bill that created the resilience officer.

Committee members envisioned hiring a resilience officer who had experience in managing a large-scale natural disaster, Parrish said.

“I don’t know the inside baseball that happened in the Senate, but clearly, he didn’t have the skill set to do the job of managing resilience and emergency planning,” she said.

Opposition to Smith’s nomination was bipartisan, said Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day. The senator said some of his colleagues had concerns about the nominee but gave no specifics.

In a memo to Ivo Trummer, legislative affairs director; Heidi Moawad, the governor’s public safety policy advisor, indicated the governor chose Smith from a pool of 12 “stakeholders” who had expressed interest in the job.

A panel of five - Cameron Smith, director of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs; Press Secretary Chris Pair, Richard Whitman, natural resources policy advisor, Chief of Staff Kristen Leonard and Moawad – interviewed four finalists for the position before unanimously recommending Smith, according to the memo.

The governor is still evaluating what the next steps will be to fill the position, Pair said Tuesday.

When Brown announced Smith as her nominee, she touted the fact that Smith had expanded Clean Energy Works’ services to include seismic strengthening of homes through a partnership with FEMA and Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.

It’s unclear whether Smith actually oversaw that expansion. In September, two months after Smith left Clean Energy Works, the Portland Business Journal reported that the nonprofit was still in the process of “expanding its sphere to include seismic retrofits, solar energy and indoor air quality work.”

Smith’s LinkedIn profile states that he is “building the business model and securing funding for a start-up related to earthquake preparedness and community resilience.”

Smith served as CEO of Clean Energy Works from July 2010 until 2015. The Portland-based nonprofit has since taken the name, Enhabit.

The nonprofit launched with $20 million in federal economic stimulus money and good connections in state government. Former state Rep. Jules Bailey, now a Multnomah County Commissioner and Portland mayoral candidate, was a founding board member.

In March 2012, the nonprofit partnered with Gov. John Kitzhaber to promote the governor’s Cool Schools building retrofit program. Cool Schools, which helped schools install new energy-efficient systems, was part of Kitzhaber’s job creation platform during his 2010 campaign.

The partnership helped Clean Energy Works expand from retrofitting homes to doing energy efficiency projects on commercial buildings with federal stimulus money. The nonprofit contracted with Portland firm Blue Tree Strategies to promote and administer supplemental grants to schools. Blue Tree Strategies gained attention last year when media reports revealed the firm pushed for the Oregon Department of Energy to violate its own rules and retroactively eliminate price regulations on the sales of state energy tax credits.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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