Hales’ chief of staff pick looks good for transportation reformers

Hales’ chief of staff pick looks good for transportation reformers

Gail Shibley
(Photo: Hales campaign)

Mayor-elect Charlie Hales has chosen Gail Shibley to be his chief of staff. Shibley has a very impressive background of public service ranging from positions at the city, state, and federal levels. I have not met Shibley, but judging from buzz I’m hearing and from local media reaction to the news, it seems she’s well-respected and very qualified.

If you care about transportation reform in Portland — and the role bicycling should play in it — you have good reason to be excited about Hales’ pick. Shibley is a former staffer at the Portland Bureau of Transportation where she served under then Transportation Commissioner (now Congressman) Earl Blumenauer from 1991-1996. At PBOT, Shibley worked as spokesperson and program manager. In 2001, Shibley worked as director of external communications for the Federal Highway Administration. Since 2003, Shibley has held the title of Sr. Environmental Health Advisor & Public Health Administrator for the state-run Oregon Health Authority.

To give you a sense of Shibley’s experiences at PBOT back in the early 1990s, I delved into the archives of The Oregonian

In October 1991, Shibley was quoted in the paper for a story about an event called Reclaiming our Streets that was held as part of the city’s first “Neighborhood Congress”. The event seemed to be something like our more recent Transportation Safety Summits where PBOT engages and educates citizens. A big theme of the event was how PBOT would make citizen feedback a pillar of how they make decisions.

“We want to get people thinking, get them involved in the solutions and engage them in activities that make a difference… we want to redouble our commitment to include all the citizens in managing the direction of our streets.” Shibley told The Oregonian.

During the elections of May 1992, Shibley had left PBOT and was representing Portland as a state legislator in Salem. The Oregonian reported on a commuting event sponsored by the newly formed Bicycle Transportation Alliance that pitted car vs. bike vs. bus to see which one could travel downtown faster. The bus was taken by mayoral candidate Vera Katz (she ended up winning the election), city council member Charlie Hales was selected to drive a car, and guess who rode bikes? Shibley and Blumenauer.

Shibley and Blumenauer won the race (as bikes always do). What’s noteworthy is that Shibley urged readers of The Oregonian to vote by bike because, “It shows that you care not only about your government but your environment.”

Further cementing her bike-cred, Shibley was in attendance at the first ever BTA Alice B. Toeclips awards in December 1995. According to a column in The Oregonian by none other than Jonathan Nicholas, Shibley showed up to the event perhaps hoping to further her chances at a City Council run in 1996 (which she ultimately ended up losing to Jim Francesconi).

Shibley’s mix of transportation experience under Blumenauer and the USDOT, her impressive and diverse resume, and her work in the public health field, leave me with a very positive impression about how effective she’ll be in helping Mayor-elect Hales run this city. Stay tuned!

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