Elvis has left the building

The guy who was running the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Richard Whitman, has stepped down. He's a career Salem bureaucrat, going back to 1997. He's been the head of the DEQ since the last dude got shipped out in a hurry in early 2017.

It hasn't been the greatest decade for the environment here in Oregon. We had the Bullseye Glass scandal, the Malarkey Roofing scandal, the Daimler Swan Island stink scandal, the Port of Morrow wastewater scandal, the Whitaker Slough bungle, the list goes on and on. The salmon are dwindling. The ocean is doing poorly. The polluters are allowed to operate with expired permits. They're flinging shredded tires around in the wind right next to the Willamette River in Portland, and it's all perfectly legal by the DEQ's reckoning. If there is anybody outside of government who thinks the Oregon DEQ is doing its job well, I haven't met them.

Whitman, a lawyer and a former urban "planner," announced his retirement from the agency back in June, and it was supposed to take place at the end of the year. Then suddenly, last week, it was announced that he was packing it in immediately, for "personal reasons." Last Wednesday was his last day in the office; he gets paid through this Friday, apparently.


That altered timeline is particularly interesting in light of the official line that was being sold all summer.

In an interview about his retirement in June, Whitman told the Capital Chronicle that there was still a lot of work to be done in his remaining six months and that he was focused on “helping the commission and the agency with finding a great new leader.”

[DEQ flack Harry] Esteve told the Chronicle at the time that it was “pretty hectic and chaotic, the last time the agency had to find a new leader.

He said Whitman’s six-month notice would give the agency enough time to find a new director and allow for overlap between Brown and the next governor. Esteve said at the time that there was no pressure from Brown to retire and that Whitman had received messages urging him to stay after he announced his retirement in June.

Often when someone's retirement is abruptly moved up, it signals that they are being fired. That may be the case here. But maybe not. 

Just as likely to me is that Killer Kate and her minions have found the person they want as Whitman's successor, and they want to install that person before there's a new governor who might have different ideas. Watch for the proverbial "national search" to end in a jiffy, probably followed by the appointment of a trusted bobblehead, within a month. Given the Guv's taste in agency heads, it could very well be someone who checks various boxes and knows nothing about the environment. Or perhaps a local political hack in need of a paycheck. Heck, maybe Ginny Burdick is available.


  1. I hear they are changing the name to Department of Environmental EQUITY...

  2. If you think Kate's choice will be awful, think of the disaster under Drazen. She would want to dismantle the whole department.


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