Tom Miller in 2012. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A familiar name has taken a top job for incoming Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez: Tom Miller.

A reporter who works for The Oregonian reported via Twitter today that Miller will be in charge of the Gonzalez transition team. Gonzalez won a seat on city council last week and will take over for ousted incumbent Jo Ann Hardesty on January 1st, 2023.

Miller entered local politics as a policy advisor and then chief of staff for Sam Adams, who served as a Portland city commissioner and mayor between 2005 and 2012. Adams chose Miller to be director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation in 2011 — a position he held for two years. Due to his close personal and professional connection to Adams, Miller’s rise in Portland power circles was cut short after his former boss was had an intimate relationship with an underrage intern and then lied about it when it was reported on in the local press in 2009.

Shortly after taking on the PBOT director role, Miller told me in an interview: “Your transportation director understands bike issues. I know bicycling’s place in the urban context and I understand that bicycling has arrived…  I believe separated facilities are the only way to get the concerned cyclist riding more.”

Miller initially rose to prominence at City Hall as the man behind an effort to build a network of skateboard parks throughout the city. As we reported in September, he still found a way to be involved with that cause as a member of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s staff.

In addition to riding skateboards, Miller is also a notable cycling advocate. Many people think that former Mayor Sam Adams’ political focus on cycling (his most memorable campaign video depicted him biking to work) was a result of Miller’s influence. A good example of that was how Miller was such a big booster of bike share. Adams was one of the early adopters of the idea in the United States and wanted Portland to become the first city to have a bike share system. In 2008 Miller wrote a six-part series about bike share for BikePortland.

Miller and Adams were reunited in the office of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler where both currently have top advisory roles — Miller as director of livability and Adams as director of strategic innovations. Wheeler instituted a ban on camping alongside dangerous roadways and on sidewalks near schools during their time on his staff.

During his campaign, Gonzalez used slogans like “restore Portland.” By choosing a veteran political insider like Miller, we are getting our first glimpse of what version of Portland he hopes to restore.

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