The man appointed to oversee Portland’s top public safety programs — including gun violence prevention — has spent much of his recent time on the job living 750 miles away.
Mike Myers, the director of Portland’s Community Safety Division, has spent recent months living in a gated condo community in Henderson, Nevada — a suburb to the southeast of Las Vegas. Staff says Myers didn’t rely on any city dollars to travel between addresses.
Myers, 56, was tapped to lead the new Community Safety Division in March 2021, with the assignment to coordinate work between the city’s multiple public safety bureaus. Myers, who previously served as the city’s fire chief, was touted as a visionary and a problem solver by city commissioners at the time.
Since his hire, Myers’ job has expanded to oversee the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, which focuses on deterring gun violence, and the Street Services Coordination Center, which offers resources to people experiencing homelessness to move them off of public property. Records show Myers made an annual salary of $208,263 in 2022.
Myers declined to comment on his time working remotely while out of state.
The news that one of the top bureaucrats in city government lived and was working remotely from a different metro area for several months comes as Wheeler has pushed for more workers to return to work in City Hall.
Myers served as Portland’s fire chief from 2016 to 2019. He has a decades-long connection to the Las Vegas area, where he started his career in 1986 and rose the ranks until becoming chief. While he sold his Las Vegas home after resigning from that position in 2013, that wasn’t the end of his Nevada residency.
According to county records, Myers and his wife purchased a condo in Henderson, Nevada in February 2022, nearly a year after accepting the Community Safety Division position. His name is also on a September 2022 deed for a condo in Southwest Portland.
It’s unknown how much time, exactly, Myers spent working from Nevada since purchasing the condo, which is in a larger resort community on Lake Las Vegas. Many of the meetings he attended during 2022 were virtual, including a June press conference in which Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees the Community Safety Division, announced an emergency declaration to tackle the city’s record levels of gun violence. The declaration established a new program, called Safer Summer PDX, which Myers was appointed to oversee.
That program came on the heels of a record number of homicides in 2021, a deadly trend that continued in 2022. Shooting rates have dipped in the past year. There have been 643 shootings in Portland so far in 2023. At this time last year, there had been 790 shootings in the city. Yet this data reflects similar trends in other West Coast cities: Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles, which have seen a drop in shootings this year compared to this time last year.
Some involved in gun violence work have raised concerns about Myers’ absence in the midst of a gun violence crisis. Sam Sachs is a gun violence prevention activist, who’s worked with Myers in recent years.
“It’s not personal for me, he’s done some great things,” Sachs said. “But I don’t understand how one of the directors of one of the most important bureaus in the city, community safety, can be as effective as they need to be when they spend part of their time living out of state.”
Yet others attest that Myers’ remote work hasn’t hurt his effectiveness.
“His focus has been the harm that is happening in our community to everyone hurt by gun violence,” said Pastor Robin Wisner, a member of a group of Black elders that meets with Myers in person frequently. “It’s been his top agenda, with or without being in the city.”
Wisner said that it’s not surprising to learn Myers has been working remotely, as many people have during the pandemic.
“We’ve all experienced a great shift with COVID,” Wisner said. “We must focus on how we can support one another out of this period. What I see is a person who is committed to doing the work, and that’s what matters.”
The city of Portland has been flexible with remote work since the start of the pandemic. That changed in April 2023, when the city required all staff to work at least 20 hours per week in person unless they had an approved exemption. Myers received such an exemption in May, which was approved by Wheeler. Myers spent most of April through June living in Henderson, according to staff.
In July, the city’s human resources department informed staff that by Aug. 15, city employees would have to re-apply for an exemption to continue remote work. Myers did not re-apply. Instead, he put his Henderson condo up for sale in July and moved back to living in his Portland condo full-time. His Nevada condo has not yet sold, according to online listing services.
According to state voting records, Myers is still registered to vote in Nevada. But in 2020, he voted as an Oregon resident.
Dan Douthit, a spokesperson for the Community Safety Division, said that Myers never considered himself as someone who lived in Nevada “part-time.”
“He was never not living in Portland,” Douthit said. “He didn’t miss a single meeting he was asked to attend. His remote work did not impact his ability to lead the Community Safety Division at all.”
In a statement to OPB, Wheeler defended his decision to grant Myers an exemption.
“Director Myers continues to do great work serving the City of Portland as the Community Safety Transition Director,” Wheeler said. “Like many employees, as the City worked to change return to work protocols, Director Myers requested a waiver and followed all procedures to temporarily work hybrid. He has been able to successfully perform his duties during this time.”