Remembering the Leadership and Legacy of Vera Katz


Vera Katz

As most Oregonians remember and appreciate Vera’s leadership as Portland mayor, I’ll be thinking even more about her extraordinary leadership as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1985-91.

She was the first woman Speaker in Oregon history—and if sexism forced her to be twice as smart and savvy as a man needed to be to reach that pinnacle, she was all that. She was a master of the legislative process; fearless in advocating key causes like gay rights and educational reform. As an extremely skilled collaborator, Vera helped people come together to find common ground. But she never chased the limelight; she truly believed that so much more could get done if you didn’t care who got the credit.

I had the privilege to work for her for three years as a staff assistant (1985-88). She was a mentor, and a role model. She taught so many of us the importance of asking the inconvenient question; of putting the right policy first, and THEN dealing with the necessary politics—an all-too-rare approach whose absence makes both Oregon and the nation’s politics poorer for it.

Her work to improve Oregon public education in particular deserves mention. In the late 1980’s, she pushed to create a mentor teacher program for all new Oregon teachers; for full day kindergarten and state-paid pre-school; for a 200-day school year. But in exchange for more state money—yes, she was brave enough to push for state sales tax money—she wanted more rigorous performance standards for students, teachers, and school administrators alike.

While Measure 5 unfortunately dashed those hopes then, her “decades ahead of her times” ideas are now finding resonance today—and hopefully, will receive even more attention even though she won’t be among us to say, “I told you so.”

She told—and taught—us a lot. She was the consummate public servant, who took Tom McCall’s words to heart that heroes are not some statues framed against a red sky at sunset, but citizens who simply say, “This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.”

– Phil Keisling, Director, Center for Public Service


PSU and Center for Public Service well-represented at 5th International Conference on Government Performance Management and Leadership

Written by Phil Keisling, CPS Director

Day 2: Thursday, September 14, 2017

One of the exciting opportunities connected with doing outreach and applied research work in the field of public service administration involves building a network of practice with like-minded faculty, students, and government officials in other countries.


Day 2: Thursday, September 14, 2017

Last month, from September 13-15, a small group attended the 5th iteration of an international conference that PSU helped found back in 2009. The delegation was led by former Hatfield School Director Ron Tammen, and includes Professors Doug Morgan, Marcus Ingle, Rick Mogren, and Gary Larsen. CPS Director Phil Keisling was also part of the group.


Day 3: Friday, September 15, 2017

This year’s event was hosted by the College of Local Administration at Khon Kaen University in the city of Khon Kaen, Thailand. Located in the NE part of Thailand—and well removed from the hubbub of Bangkok—KKU is similar to PSU in terms of size, and boasts one of the nation’s best public administration programs. More than 150 participants, representing universities and government entities in more than 15 different countries, made this the largest conference to date.

In addition to the presentation of more than 60 academic papers that examined a wide range of topics related to public administration, performance management, governance, and accountability, attendees focused especially on topics related to urban sustainability. Former Portland mayor Charlie Hales, along with his wife and First Stop Portland founder Nancy Hales, traveled to Khon Kaen to deliver several well-received keynote addresses. Participants also learned about ambitious efforts underway in Khon Kaen—a city of about 200,000 people—to start work next year on a 12-mile light-rail line with financing raised through an innovative public-private partnership.

PSU has been a co-sponsor of these biennial conferences since the first one was held in
Lanzhou China in 2009. PSU hosted the 2011 conference, while Waseda University (2013) and Lanzhou University (2015) hosted the most recent ones. In 2019, the School of Public
Administration at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam—one of that
country’s premier programs—will host the 6th international conference.

While international partnerships certainly can take time to build, they’ve become an
increasingly vital part of the work the Center does. In recent years, delegations from Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and China have contracted with CPS for a wide range of leadership development and training purposes, and a number of students (including several from KKU) can now be counted among our graduates. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate and learn from our international partners in the years ahead.

Apologies for Mistake in the Civic Leadership Blog Series

Please accept our apologies for the mistake that appeared in our Civic Leadership
Blog Series. Original Part 3 of the series contained a misstatement, notably we incorrectly identified Nichole Maher as a member of the Siletz Tribe. In addition we have
received concern over consent for publication.

As a precaution the CPS Blog team has decided to suspend the series temporarily
until the content in the remainder of the series has been verified with the
interviewees and consent for publication is verified.

We thank our Civic Leadership Minor students for their submissions and apologize
to our readers for the errors.

Civic Leadership Series – Part 2 of 5

As individuals put in to a role which requires introspection and development, leaders are prone to various degrees of change and growth throughout their journeys. The Nishishiba-Vizzini leadership model plots leadership as a journey across four quadrants identified as advocate, leader, reactionary, and participant/volunteer. The model concludes that where a leader falls on this scale is defined by their level of knowledge, skills and experience, and a broad-to-narrow scale of interest. Through our interview process, we were fortunate enough to be able to meet with two leaders: Amy Herzfeld-Copple, co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, and Nichole Maher, president and CEO of the Northwest Health Foundation. Our interview left us questioning whether the Nishishiba-Vizzini model of Civic Leadership can be applied to the perhaps rare, yet remarkable instances of what one might call a “natural born leader”.

amy_herzfeld_CPS Blog

By the age of twelve Amy Herzfeld-Copple was spending her free time volunteering on the Idaho political campaign known as ‘No on 1’, a campaign established to combat the (unsuccessful) state referendum that sought to prevent minority status for LGBTQ identifying people. She stated in her interview with us that she had never fully come to the identification of herself as a leader, but that the role came into her life due to her identity as a queer individual with an authentic connection to the LGBTQ community, the finely tuned political analysis her education offered her, and connections she made with individuals she met along her journey who both empowered and inspired her. After her early endeavors, Amy went on to Boise State University to study History and Gender Studies.

Amy’s time at University greatly developed and shaped her political views and analytical abilities. Amy recalls many courses revolving around social movements, yet admits she had very little coursework relevant to leadership, or leadership development. Amy attributes her development as a leader during her college years to the network of political activists she was introduced to on campus, and to the connections she made working at the women’s center on campus. It was at this stage in her life we believe the Nishishiba-Vizzini model would claim she evolved from a participant to an advocate in the LGBTQ community. From here, it was the Idaho Nonprofit Development Center, where Herzfeld-Copple first earned a formal leadership position as a Director. Having accomplished such a respectable position while still only in her early 20’s, Herzfeld-Copple says she often felt like “the token young person,” an obstacle she believes often impacted the way she was regarded by her peers.

Maher_NicholeCPS Blog

Seemingly in contrast, Nichole Maher claims she never identified as a leader in her early life. However, our conversation similarly revealed an innate resilience, passion and strength interwoven into Ms. Maher’s core identity that dates back to a pivotal moment in which she realized her ability to challenge oppressive authority at just eight years old by literally heaving the tool of her oppression into the sea, knowing vast consequence would surely follow.

A proud Native person of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Nichole Maher is an example of a staunch advocate, a leader who has spent her life advocating on behalf of “minority” communities. Nichole, however, refuses to accept society’s labeling of “minority”, instead fiercely using the term “emerging majority”. She currently serves as the CEO of the Northwest Health Foundation, but has a storied background as a leader. Born in Ketchikan Alaska and raised on the Siletz Indian Reservation, Nichole began advocating on behalf of her community during her teenage years when she and a group of her peers established a Native American Student Association within their high school, a program she said was desperately needed, yet unsupported by the school’s administration. During our interview with her, Nichole emphasized the importance of doing what you believe in, even if met with resistance. “In order to make change…” she said, “you have to be able to disrupt until it moves things on their way.”

Nichole knew from a young age that she wanted to stand up for and protect her native heritage and strongly believes in the power of building leadership in communities that are most disenfranchised. “Everyone wants stability, and to be a part of something,” she said early in our interview, “I didn’t set out to be a leader, but my tenaciousness set me on that path.” Nichole spoke passionately about the growing issue of color-blind racism in communities such as Portland, Oregon, warning that we must grow aware of how diverse our local community truly is.  She stressed the importance of organizations such as Northwest Health, arguing there is never enough money spent on growing leadership within communities, with these programs rarely being funded directly.

Our conversation with Ms. Maher continuously circled back to themes of perseverance and success through abstract thinking, defiant risk-taking, and integrity; traits she attributes to much of her success, and traits we find both admirable and remarkable. It is our opinion that the very abstraction of Maher’s unconventional journey as a leader makes her story much to grand to plot on a model of leadership with just four quadrants. and no room for context. “People will never reach their potential as a leader unless they first know who they are,” she argued. The impression she left on us was that she is a local leader who understands very deeply who she is, and who she serves in her communities, both at home and afar. This calls back to Amy Herzfeld-Copple, a leader who also has deep rooted identity in the community she passionately spent her life serving; fully integrating her work, identity and purpose in her life’s journey.

It is these types of leaders who we argue transcend the realms of mapping or categorizing. These leaders, whether born with it or shaped by their surroundings, have almost always had a strong desire to challenge oppressive power, serve and represent their communities, and step up to the plate when leadership calls. We believe that these two women go above and beyond such categorization as the Nishishiba-Vizzini model offers, adjusting their roles as need demands it. The time we spent with both of these remarkable leaders revealed to us the glaring importance of story and identity when it comes to leadership. While it may be possible for someone to be born remarkable; the passion and drive required to be an impactful leader comes from a preciously personal story of identity, adversary and human connection. As students aspiring to one day be as impactful as the two women we interviewed, these conversations revealed to us that when attempting to map and evaluate leadership, the questions of “how?” and “why?” are starkly more important than the “what?” We don’t believe you can model leadership, it is a construct much too personal and complex, and that is the way it should be.

CPS Blog written by Spencer Schaaf & Carina Mears Connery

Edited by Peter Chaille,Ph.D., Masami Nishishiba, Ph.D., and Jennifer Martinez, Public Affairs and Policy Doctoral Student.

Civic Leadership Series – Part 1 of 5

The Civic Leadership Minor offered through PSU’s College of Urban and Public Affairs is an interdisciplinary, immersive track that cultivates theoretical and practical understanding of the history and praxis of leadership. Its curriculum is also rich with Community Based Learning (CBL): hands-on experience that develops responsive and informed leadership skills. In its final integrative seminar, students reflect on what they’ve learned throughout the minor, develop a personal portfolio of their leadership work, and are provided the opportunity to pair-up in teams to interview two influential local leaders about their own civic journeys. This year, our interview work was guided by a helpful heuristic developed by Dr. Masami Nishishiba, Associate Director of the Center for Public Service (CPS) in the Hatfield School of Government, and her colleague Dan Vizzini, a Senior Fellow also at CPS.

Series 1 of 6 student blog post

The diagram (above) reflects their keen observations of civic engagement in action over the years. While it’s laid out in a planar fashion visually, conceptually the quadrants are meant to be multidimensional, telling the story of leaders at the most commonly-shared stages of their development and practice. Dr. Nishishiba explained to our class that, while every leader experiences their development differently, most of the leaders that they observed began their journeys as a reaction to a singular interest, with low-level skillsets in and a less-than-nuanced understanding of the interdependent issues that related to their cause. As they grew and developed as leaders, though, most that could have been plotted in sections A or D originally, were observed to acquire the skill sets and knowledge to traverse towards the other ends of the spectrum, not only in terms of interests and understanding, but also in cultivating the leadership skills that are required to organize across a diverse spectrum.

Equipped with this guiding instrument as a reference point, we set out on our interviews in the hopes that we might glean insight enough to contribute to this developing leadership model. We were both more than eager to sit down with our interviewees, but neither of us anticipated how much they have in common.

Charles McGee is a Liberian immigrant

Charles McGee is a Liberian immigrant in his early thirties, affable, boisterous, with socks as loud and endearing as his laugh and the kind of charisma that attracts attention immediately. His leadership story started early, with strong examples of civic engagement modeled by his family in Liberia before they fled the civil war in 1989, and again later, in the Northeast neighborhoods in which he was raised. Charles did not let immigrating to a new country deter his civic development, rather, he drew upon his experiences and accelerated it. At 19 he ran for the Portland school board and although he didn’t win he drew quite a bit from the experience. In speaking about his experience in running for office Charles stated “When I went through it I learned so much about myself, I learned that I was tough, I learned that I care what people think, I learned that I ultimately do believe in what I do, I learned that I love this community and over the last couple of years I’ve also learned that I can do and get things done without being elected…there are multiple ways to lead and to change the world.” It was those experiences that Charles drew on, in creating the Black Parent Initiative and through it Charles executes the work that matters most to him: educating, uplifting, supporting and enriching black families.

Sue Hildick

At a glance, you might not think that his work, (or even his life story), has much to do with Sue Hildick – but you’d be wrong. Sue is a fourth-generation education advocate and native Oregonian. While her presentation is more modest and her demeanor subdued, Sue immediately commands every bit as much attention with her thoughtful communication, gracious and inquisitive nature that shines through her attentive and welcoming stare. Sitting with Sue you get a sense that she is taking the experience in, without judgement, and truly listening – attributes that have served her well in her leadership journey. Like Charles, Sue wasted no time in her youth, quickly ascending the political ranks to be a legislative to former U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield, director of government relations at Oregon Health Sciences University, and CEO of the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross – all before she was 40 years old. For the past thirteen years, Sue has served as the President of The Chalkboard Project. Calling upon her lessons in leadership and her connections as a Board Chair of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, Sue has managed to build a thriving coalition of Oregon’s largest foundations to focus and streamline efforts to improve public education throughout the state. Sue summed up her main goal as “My vision is about how does the quality of life in this state get better? It only gets better, to me, if the education system is far better and that is why I do the work that I do and that’s what motivates me is a sense of place that is really, really deep.”

So, what do these two leaders have in common, besides their enthusiasm for education advocacy? While they may have different demeanors, both leaders have thrived in their journeys despite arbitrary obstacles like gender and race. Each has created their own nonprofits and have prioritized their work therein above the opportunity to run for public office, and each has received great accolades for their work. Charles has been recognized as one of the most influential African American leaders in Oregon, and with ten additional years of accomplishments under her belt, Sue has been recognized with distinction more often than not in the last several years, including titles of: New Leadership Oregon’s 2009 Woman Leader of the Year, Nonprofit CEO of the Year by the Portland Business Journal, twice as one of Oregon’s Fifty Great Leaders by Oregon Business Magazine, Oregon’s top 40 under 40 and most recently Sue was selected as a Presidio Institute Fellow in 2016. Given his drive and all that he’s accomplished thus far, we’re sure Charles will follow suit. Most importantly to our project, though, is that each of our interviewees named the same missing components from the model we asked them to engage with, namely: relationships.

Since both Sue and Charles were raised in families in which leadership was modeled, they each adapted leadership styles earlier-on in their trajectory than most leaders. As such, neither felt that they fit squarely into the most common starting points delineated on the Leadership Model that we used. What they related to us was the importance of the relationships that propelled them ever onward and upward. In Charles’ case, hard lessons learned about being a shining star early on and the type of fickle supporters that can be attracted to malleable new leadership talent has helped inform his process of choosing the relationships he relies on more judiciously. In Sue’s case, it was the opportunity to work with Mark O. Hatfield and to learn about relationship building from his unique, inclusive and equitable team-building style that helped shape her into the leader that she is today. In order for the leadership model to be complete, both Charles McGee and Sue Hildick agree that it should reflect the trajectory of leaders that build their legacy through the relationship they make, and the interdependence of all of the work that has yet to be done. In reference to these ideas Sue mentioned that “Now, the whole conversation is about equity and that’s about empathy and really listening and understanding many more perspectives that are frankly very hard to find in Oregon sometimes, and make sure the table is set right and we are learning that now, as a 52 year old leader I am deeply engaged and learning that now.”

CPS Blog written by Shane Jaqua & Adriane Ackerman

Edited by Peter Chaille,Ph.D., Masami Nishishiba, Ph.D., and Jennifer Martinez, Public Affairs and Policy Doctoral Student.

Interview with Dr. Craig Shinn

In light of our 3rd Annual Celebrating Public Service Gala, Honoring Dr. Craig Shinn’s Lifetime Contributions to Conciliatory Governance, we spent a little time with him reflecting on his career as a practitioner and an academic. He spoke to us about the meaning of governance, his legacy, emerging issues, and advice for those who are new to public service. He gave us a peek at a book project he will be working on as he enters retirement. Below are some excerpts and summary from our interview.

What is Governance?

“Governance” is the topic of passion for Dr. Shinn. In the interview he emphasized the importance governance in our everyday life.

He defines governance as the rules of the game for creating agreements requiring different resolutions at every social scale to fit polity differences and set rules that allow us to arbitrate value differences and do politics well. He underscores once collaborative work is done, we turn to and depend on government to hold and carry out agreements over time. These institutional arrangements are what make components of the market economy such as property rights, contract law, and monetary policy work.

What are your major contributions while at PSU?

In an effervescent tone he described himself as an academic who sees himself in practice characterized as a hybrid between academic and practitioner. He notes that one of his contributions is meeting the learning needs of public service professionals at various levels.  His work with public service professionals is not limited to degree based activities. For example, he has also worked with mid-career professionals at the request of federal executives seeking additional competencies for their staff.

His contributions have been predicated by his thirty years of practice. As part of the 7th American Forest Congress, he helped create heroic agreements at a time when armed conflict and violence was present in the woods. All of his contributions emanate from applying strong theory and incorporating challenges practitioners face.

He is proud of the success of his students and becomes overjoyed when he sees students in practice, building on what they’ve learned in the academic program that reflect contributions from the Hatfield School.

Describe an emerging issue in the field.

When Dr. Shinn began his work, the focus was on getting practitioners to see beyond individual roles and expand their perspectives to an organizational and institutional level. Today, the work in public service requires a broad perspective. He says “We need to move between sectors, move across the landscape.” In his forthcoming book, co-authored with Dr. Ingle and Dr. Morgan, they argue it is no longer sufficient to focus on creating vital organizations. Instead we must create polity leaders and measure our success in terms of residual to the community and society as a whole.

Advice for students entering public service.

Dr. Shinn believes people who choose public service careers are doing special work in society. Unfortunately, however, they have become the targets of dislike, dismay, and distrust. The public service work is typically done in the shadows; but the seemingly marginal every day work matters in making a real difference. Those of us in public service need to work well technically and politically. We need to be open to the fact that technical work may be disputed, not because of facts, but because the variations in the meanings attached to the work.

We thank Dr. Shinn for his time at Portland State University and with the Center for Public Service and wish him well as he transitions to retirement.

If you are interested in attending the Dinner and Symposium, there is still time to register.

Interview and summary by Jennifer Martinez, Graduate Assistant at the Center for Public Service.

Edited by Dr. Masami Nishishiba

Who Votes for Mayor?

The 2016 Election is now behind us – but across the country, local government officials are gearing up for the 2017 election cycle.

That’s right – in most U.S. cities (though not in Oregon), key offices like Mayors and city commissioners are elected in odd-year contests. And thanks to a major grant that CPS and PSU’s Population Research Center received last year from the Knight Foundation, our recent research has provided unprecedented insight into the question of “Who Votes for Mayor?”

Our research team — co-led by me and PRC Director Jason Jurjevich, with help from Kevin Rancik, Carson Gorecki, and Stephanie Hawke —  analyzed over 23 million voting records. The most visible finding of our work – looking at 50 cities across the U.S., including Portland, is that the general answer is voter turnout is “shockingly low.”

Across the 50 cities, turnout of eligible citizens averaged just over 20%. Eligible citizen turnout in 10 of the largest cities was an abysmal 15%, and in cities such as Las Vegas, Fort Worth, and Dallas it was in the single digits.

Our research revealed that the single most important determinant of voter turnout is age, overshadowing other factors such as household income, education, and race/ethnicity. In many communities residents 65 and older were 15 times more likely to cast a ballot than their younger counterparts between the ages of 18 and 34. The study was able to clarify how wide the voter age gap actually is.  Across all 50 cities, the median age of voters who actually cast ballots was 57, nearly a generation older than the median age (42) of eligible voters.


Democracy is the core principle on which our constitution rests. Low voter turnout inevitably means that disproportionate influence will be exercised by a small segment of residents, affecting critical issues like schools, parks, housing, libraries, police, fire and transportation. This creates a strong motivation for local government candidates – not to mention elected officials – to pay more attention to courting relatively small shares of their communities – often to the detriment of paying attention to the much broader community.

Portland, incidentally, fared quite well in this research, with a 59.4% turnout, the highest of 50 cities studied. The biggest reason for this: the determinative mayor’s election in 2012 was one of the few held at the same time as the November Presidential election. But I also think that Oregon’s “vote at home” system may have also played a role.

There’s no large, 200+ page study associated with this work; rather, the project resulted in a highly interactive website by which citizens can zero into individual census tracts and compare a wide range of election-related metrics with such Census data as income, education, race/ethnicity, and employment rates.

For the full interactive website click here.

This post was written by Phil Keisling, Director of Center for Public Service and edited by CPS.