Portland Mayor Wheeler will take control of all city bureaus next month

By Alex Zielinski (OPB)
June 13, 2024 10:58 p.m.

The move is a first step toward the massive restructuring of Portland government voters approved two years ago.

FILE: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, pictured here in May 2023, is taking charge of all city agencies as part of the transition to a new form of municipal government.

FILE: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, pictured here in May 2023, is taking charge of all city agencies as part of the transition to a new form of municipal government.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will seize control of all city bureaus run by his fellow council members starting on July 1.


The more than two dozen city departments and offices will be managed by the newly-appointed interim City Administrator Michael Jordan, who has been responsible for overseeing the city’s massive shift to a new form of government by 2025 and reports to Wheeler.

Wheeler said the decision is critical to smoothly transitioning city government into its new structure, in which council members will no longer oversee city departments. The city administrator will be responsible for managing bureaus under that new format, dismantling the current leadership model that’s more than a century old.

“This is a necessary move to ensure the success of the next mayor and city council,” Wheeler in an emailed statement. He is not running for reelection, and will leave office in December.

This new structure, which was approved by voters in 2022, also triples the size of the City Council to 12 people — up from the current four plus the mayor — and divides the city into four geographic districts; each will each be represented by three council members. Under the expanded council, elected officials will solely be responsible for legislating.

Under the old model, they were both legislators and bureau administrators. One of the few powers the mayor has under the current form of government is the ability to reassign or take hold of city agencies at any time. In the past, Wheeler has shuffled bureau leadership after new commissioners are elected or to signal his dissatisfaction with how a commissioner has managed a bureau. Historically, some mayors have also taken control of all bureaus during budget-writing season.


This time is different, largely because it was expected.

“We have been well aware for several months that this would be a likely outcome, and I believe it will be good for both employees and the public,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who is running for mayor.

Other commissioners expressed worry that the shift in bureau leadership could slow the rollout of incomplete bureau projects or confuse members of the public used to contacting certain commissioners to address bureau issues.

Commissioner Rene Gonzalez said he had concerns about Wheeler’s “capacity to absorb bureaus,” but that he “unconditionally” supports a smooth transition to the new government. Gonzalez is also running to replace Wheeler.

Wheeler said the timing of the shift will allow the city to “test and refine” the new governance system before 2025.

However, the city must still operate under its current form of government until the end of the year.

This means the mayor will be responsible for introducing any proposals to City Council that are requested by bureau leadership. Commissioners are still allowed to propose new ordinances and other policy items under the current city code, just not on behalf of a bureau.

Commissioner Dan Ryan said he will continue to focus on carrying out projects within his current bureaus — such as establishing the Darcelle XV Plaza and new Steel Bridge Skatepark, both Portland Parks and Recreation programs.

“Portlanders want action — we need to continue improving our service delivery and build a culture of accountability,” Ryan said.

The announcement comes as all City Council members prepare to leave their offices in City Hall. In July, all elected officials will temporarily move into other city buildings while City Hall undergoes major renovations to meet the needs of the larger council.