City Hall’s top lawyer named interim Portland city manager

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The Portland City Council on Monday appointed the city’s top attorney interim city manager.

The city announced Sept. 29 that Corporation Counsel Danielle West had been nominated to temporarily replace City Manager Jon Jennings, who is leaving Nov. 1 to become city manager of Clearwater, Florida.

Danielle West
Corporation Counsel Danielle West is now Portland’s interim city manager. (Courtesy city of Portland)

West will take over in Portland City Hall on Nov. 2. Her salary will be $181,000 annually in the interim role. Her current salary is approximately $151,500. 

The City Council unanimously approved the interim appointment of West, who has been with the city for nearly 14 years. Mayor Kate Snyder said appointing West now, while Jennings is still on the job, will ease the transition. 

Snyder said West’s history and knowledge of the issues facing Portland, as well as her knowledge of city staff, made her the right choice for the interim position.

Associate Corporation Counsel Jennifer Thompson will serve as the interim corporation counsel.

Snyder said she plans to form an ad-hoc hiring committee to start the search for a new permanent city manager, which will begin with drafting a request for proposals from professional search firms. She said members of the committee will be announced in the City Council’s Oct. 18 meeting.

The role of the city manager was a major campaign issue for many of the candidates who ran this year for Charter Commission, and several of those elected have said they would like to see the manager’s role reduced in favor of more authority for the elected mayor. 

Jennings also came under fire in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests, when there were calls for his resignation.

His one-year contract with the city was scheduled to end next July, and he had said he would not renew.

Jennings, who has been Portland’s manager since 2015, was named the next manager of the Florida city in early September. He had been expected to give notice of 90 days if he decided to leave before his contract expires, but instead gave 45 days and will start work in Clearwater on Nov. 8.

His decision to leave and the interim appointment of West follow the appointment of Assistant City Manager Anne McGuire, who has no prior experience in municipal administration. McGuire, an attorney with connections in Washington, D.C., Democratic political circles, has worked at firms specializing in fundraising and investment management. She was hired by Jennings in late August.

In addition, Police Chief Frank Clark recently announced his resignation, also effective Nov. 1.

Updated Oct. 5, 2021, with City Council action.