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.

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.

Advancing International Scholarship and Public Administration Practice

~By Eric Einspruch
Senior Fellow, Center for Public Service, Portland State University
Adjunct Professor, Division of Public Administration, Portland State University
Principal, ELE Consulting, LLC

The fourth International Conference on Government Performance Management and Leadership was held in Lanzhou, Gansu, China from October 9–11, 2015. The conference, held every other year since 2009, brings together scholars and practitioners from across the globe in the field of performance management and is sponsored in part by Portland State University’s Hatfield School of GoLanzhou 1vernment. The conference convenes participants to discuss contemporary topics in public administration, with the purpose of proposing creative solutions for administrative systems reform and the improvement of government performance. This year’s conference theme was Rule of Law and Government Performance, particularly as it relates to increasing government trust and legitimacy.


A wide variety of topics were covered during the conference, including topics related to governance, administration, management, civic participation, leadership, evaluation, and innovation. Presentations by PSU participants provided both academic and applied perspectives.

  • Ron Tammen addressed conference attendees during the opening ceremony, and later spoke about political performance and the strength of nations.
  • Lanzhou2Doug Morgan spoke about the current state of performance-based management, governance, and leadership and discussed implications for the future.
  • Gary Larsen provided insights into wicked problems, rule of law, and public value-based leadership.
  • Phil Keisling spoke about voter turnout when government delivers ballots to citizens rather than requiring citizens to go to polling places.
  • I provided insights into building evaluation capacity to enhance performance.

Post-conference, the PSU group further experienced Chinese culture by visiting Qinghai Lake and Ta’er Si (Kumbum Monastery), both in Qinghai Province. The province is large, sparsely populated, and located on the Tibetan plateau. Qinghai Lake, a salt lake, is the largest lake in the country and lies at an elevation of about 10,000 feet. Ta’er Si was built in the year 1560, on the site of the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China, with dozens of halls in which monks live and practice.

I appreciated three aspects of our trip in particular. First, I had not been in China for many Horseyears, and so I was very interested to see first-hand the country’s considerable development since my last trip. For example, we experienced very comfortable travel on a high speed train and enjoyed its modern stations. Second, as a student at the Confucius Institute at PSU, I was pleased with the opportunity to practice my language skills in China. Third, and most relevant to CPS’ vision and mission, it was gratifying to see the contributions that PSU is making to advance international scholarship in the field of public administration through its role as a conference organizer and sponsor and through the presentations made by members of the PSU delegation. In his talk, Doug Morgan called for education that prepares leaders with leadership approaches that cultivate judgment, rather than simply training systems managers. This is a call to action needed around the world, and the conference provided participants with opportunities to learn new ideas and to think about ways to fulfill this call.

Lanzhou Group Pic 2 (LAKE)

Where’s the innovation? A review of CPS’ first Oregon Innovation Award

CPS will announce the winner of the second annual Oregon Innovation Award at the CPS Reception and Award Ceremony on April 2, 2016. In celebration of public service, and in honor of the great work completed by the recipients of the first annual award, we have compiled selected report excerpts and participant quotes from the project in this blog post. Links to final reports and participating organizations are provided so you can explore further!

(The following excerpts are from Transforming the Decision-Making Table through Co-Produced Public Sector Innovation by 2015 Hatfield Resident Fellow, Erin Pidot)

A public sector innovation, as defined by the Center for Public Service, is a new or significantly improved policy, process, product, service or method of delivery for the organization using it, and provides a way of resolving a public problem or responding to user or citizen demands. The innovation both outperforms previous practices and improves public outcomes.

About the Oregon Innovation Award  

The Oregon Innovation Award recognizes and honors the active pursuit of public service breakthrough innovation through collaborative partnerships between one or more public service organization(s) and the Hatfield School of Government’s Center for Public Service.

The award is designed to enable forward-thinking governmental and nonprofit organizations to further identify, co-produce, and scale-up breakthrough innovations in their organizations and communities. The awardee receives 1,000 hours of consultation and facilitation by CPS faculty and a HaInnovation Award Fellow Quotetfield Resident Fellow. The OI Award represents an exciting opportunity for CPS to further its vision of “Making an enduring difference in advancing public legitimacy and trust in our public service institutions.”

Compelling Story: transforming the decision-making table through co-produced innovation

The Portland Metropolitan region is one of the fastest growing in population and diversity, but the demographics of elected officials and others who directly influence policymaking generally remain the same—predominantly white, middle-aged and older, with four or more years of higher education.[i] This disparity is reflected across the state and country. Whites, who compose seventy-seven per cent of Oregon’s population, occupy ninety-three per cent of elected offices; and the state performs relatively well—ranking ninth on the New Organizing Institute’s National Representation Index.[ii]

Government cannot effectively address communities’ needs and priorities unless those at the decision-making table reflect the diversity of the population, but the obstacles to realizing a reflective democracy are complex. Public processes are often long and impenetrable. Traditional decision-making spaces and formats may not be welcoming or accessible. And Oregon’s long history of institutionalized racial discrimination and exclusion has left a legacy of distrust.

Instead of trying to address this challenge together, local governments typically operate in silos—each with a diversity, equity and inclusion team and strategic plan; independently reaching out to historically underrepresented communities in jurisdictions that often overlap. While this engagement is critically important, uncoordinated efforts place a large burden on these communities and the community-based organizations that serve them. Add to that the fact that engagement efforts too often take community input without leaving anything behind, except the question—why bother?

In co-production with the Center for Public Service at Portland State University, 1000 Friends of Oregon and a host of other regional partners, Metro is taking this wicked challenge on with the support of the Oregon Innovation Award.

Winning proposal 

In 2015—the inaugural year of the award—the following four public service institutions submitted six proposals: Metro, Multicultural Integrated Kidney Education Program, Clackamas County, and the City of Portland. Metro was granted the award for its proposal to partner with 1000 Friends of Oregon and the Center for Public Service to design “a best practices model for engaging underrepresented communities in transportation and land use decision-making and building collaborative relationships that generate trust and offer value to community partners.” The three key components of the proposed model included a mechanism for assessing the level, type, frequency, and duration of engagement sought by CBOs; a method for identifying the best indicators for measuring progress in engaging communities of concern; and a leadership development curriculum for use by CBOs to prepare leaders to effectively engage in the regional decision-making process.

Over the course of about seven months, Metro worked with CPS, 1000 Friends of Oregon, and a host of other community and jurisdictional partners to scope the project, design the breakthrough innovation, develop champions for the work, and create a plan for implementation and long-term success. Over sixty individuals participated in some way. During the process, the content and language used to describe the innovation changed based on input from community members and other stakeholders.

The innovation that resulted includes a vision, set of guiding principles, five key strategy areas, and recommendations and action steps to advance inclusive public engagement and decision-making. The innovation specifically seeks to engage historically underrepresented communities—including people of color, English language learners, and people with low-income—in decision-making at all levels, from engagement to elected office. The central theme of this work is culture shift. How can Metro break-down barriers between public agencies and the communities they serve to inspire a public service culture that listens deeply to community voices?

Actions inspired at Metro by the innovation work

One benefit of the Oregon Innovation Award was its short timeline—Metro was expected to complete the project in partnership with 1000 Friends of Oregon and the Center for Public Service within eight months. This motivated Metro and its partners to act quickly. Here are a few important actions that are already complete or underway.

  • First joint meeting of community organizers and Metro senior staff
  • Hands-on learning: Evaluate your engagement and partnership efforts
  • Biannual Regional Engagement Forum
  • Pipeline from public engagement to public service
  • RTP Regional Leadership Forums

Value-add of the Oregon Innovation Award

The Oregon Innovation Award offers a public or nonprofit organization 1,000 hours of consultation and facilitation by CPS faculty and a Hatfield Resident Fellow. But the actual benefits of the award far exceed the stated benefits. This is a list of significant benefits—in addition to the 1,000 hours—that Metro received over the course of the award process.

  • Perspective and expertise of CPS faculty
  • Reputation of the Center for Public Service and Portland State University: CPS staff and faculty have strong ties with leaders in public service across the state, including at Metro, and these connections helped build momentum and buy-in for the innovation work.
  • Third party innovation facilitation: The Hatfield Resident Fellow—with the support of CPS staff and faculty—provided impartial, third party facilitation that helped create the space for co-production and innovation to occur.
  • Sense of urgency and focus on a specific challenge: The award gave Metro staff members license to focus time and energy on the public service challenge, and to be innovative in coming up with a response.
  • New opportunities for collaboration: Metro staff from across departments, as well as community and jurisdictional partners from across the region, came together in innovation working groups to discuss the shared challenge and identify solutions.
  • New enthusiasm for and commitment to the work: Staff members were eager to get involved and are prepared to carry the work forward after the Hatfield Fellow leaves.

[i] This is reflected in the demographics of elected officials, voters, and participants in many public engagement efforts. For example, you can find panel member demographics of Opt In, the Portland-Vancouver area online participation tool, here:

[ii] How Does Your State Rank in the National Representation Index? (2016). Retrieved January 4, 2016, from

CPS is looking forward to broadening its impact with the selection of the second Oregon Innovation Reward recipient in April.

Innovation Award finalists

Please join us by registering here or meet us at the door on April 2nd, 5-7 pm! Credit welcome for entry and wine wall; cash-only no-host bar.