Portland mayor mum about reelection

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While the election of Portland’s next mayor is still more than a year away, and it is unclear how the position will be shaped if Charter Commission changes are approved, a comment by Mayor Kate Snyder in a recent remote meeting raised questions about whether she will seek reelection.

Snyder, the city’s third popularly elected mayor after the 2010 Charter Commission revamped the office, suggested she doesn’t intend to have the job beyond the end of her first term.

Kate Snyder
Portland Mayor Kate Snyder

During a meeting of the City Manager Search Subcommittee earlier this month, Snyder was talking about the challenges of hiring a new city manager given the uncertainty around how that job might change following the work of the current Charter Commission.

It was noted that if voters approve the changes in November, the city would have to wait until a new mayor is elected with their newly imbued executive powers to hire the next manager, who would be called a chief operating officer.

Snyder said that if that’s the timeline that plays out, she wouldn’t be the one leading the search.

Snyder later said she “wasn’t talking specifically about (her) intentions,” and instead was referring to the fact that if the Charter Commission recommendations are approved in November, the subcommittee she chairs will no longer be needed; it will be the job of the executive mayor to select the chief operating officer.

Snyder said the subcommittee wants to show the city it is ready to follow either path:

• If the recommendations are rejected in the fall, it will execute a hiring process for the next city manager with search firm Baker Tilly.

• And if the commission’s recommendations are approved, there will be a different pathway to hiring the manager position.

She said the subcommittee for now is continuing its work since it is required to by the existing City Charter and out of a desire to not waste time.

“We don’t want to sit on our hands,” Snyder said.

The mayor, who was elected in 2019, declined to say if she has decided to run again.

“It’s going to come, sooner rather than later,” Snyder said, referring to the next mayoral campaign. “Then I’ll be answering it for real. First of all, you have to know what you’re running for. Not everybody is good at every job. I hope I’m good at this one. If it’s a new job in the fall, one has to contemplate ‘let me be careful about what I’m committing to.’ We shall see.”

Questions were also raised when Charter Commissioner Robert O’Brien said during the most recent commission meeting that he had spoken with Snyder several times about a conundrum the commission faces because, while the next election is in 2023, it has proposed shifting the mayoral election to 2024.

The commission ultimately recommended a once-only five-year mayoral term beginning in 2023, reverting to four-year terms thereafter. But O’Brien said he would not propose extending Snyder’s term a year, and did not say why. 

Councilor Mark Dion, a member of the City Manager Search Subcommittee, said he interpreted Snyder’s comments in the subcommittee meeting to be about the process. He said the committee has to do its duty and respect that voters may change the charter.

He said that if the proposed charter revisions are rejected, the subcommittee will continue its work immediately after the election. If voters OK the charter revisions, the subcommittee will need interpretations of what it can do.

“It works great on a whiteboard,” Dion said, “but there’s still a lot of questions.”

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