State transportation director Garrett to retire after 13 years

Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett speaks at a distracted driving awareness event in 2017. (ODOT Flickr)

SALEM —Matt Garrett, the longtime director of the state Transportation Department, announced Friday that he intends to retire by June. 30.

During his 13-year tenure, Garrett oversaw the implementation of a 2017 law that allocated $5.3 billion for transportation projects across the state and the formation of local commissions to plan transportation projects.

In his administration, the agency created what it says is the country’s first road usage charge, which will eventually move the state from a per gallon gas tax to a per mile fee to pay for transportation projects.

Garrett, paid $15,579 per month, was appointed by then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2005. He has been with the agency 22 years.

His departure is the first significant administrative change following Gov. Kate Brown’s re-election.

“The time has come for me to move on and identify a new opportunity,” Garrett, who is 60, wrote in his resignation letter to Brown and Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney.

The agency has 4,700 employees and a $3.9 billion two-year budget to build and maintain the state’s roads, bridges, railways and public transit systems. It also regulates the state’s drivers and truckers.

The news came days before the official start of the 2019 Legislature on Tuesday, Jan. 22. It’s not clear what his next step is.

“I’m eager to take the next few months to explore the opportunity to do something new,” Garrett said in a press release Friday. “It was important to me to provide enough notice to allow time for a search to identify my replacement and provide a smooth transition to the new director.”

Brown said that Garrett “led ODOT with distinction.”

The Oregon Transportation Commission has the authority to hire a new director.

Baney called Garrett a “dedicated public servant” and said that the commission would work closely with him to “ensure a smooth transition” to his successor.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: [email protected] or 971-304-4148. Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.