Oregon reaches inside to find next leader of ODOT

SALEM – Oregon’s transportation commissioners have chosen Kris Strickler, head of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s highway division, to be the agency’s new leader.

The commissioners voted on the appointment Tuesday evening, chosen after a national search to replace longtime director Matt Garrett that took six months.

Before leading ODOT’s highway division, Strickler was the southwest regional administrator at the Washington Department of Transportation. In an earlier role at ODOT, he led the Columbia River Crossing project for the department. That effort to replace the Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River failed, largely because Washington lawmakers backed out of $450 million they committed for the project.

Strickler’s appointment five years later comes as Oregon lawmakers have renewed the charge to work with Washington to replace the bridge. Strickler must be confirmed by the Oregon Senate, and his pay and benefits will be negotiated in the coming weeks.

“I’m eager to lead the agency in this dramatic time of growth in our state and to work to modernize our transportation network, diversify the department’s workforce, and bring innovative solutions to achieve Oregon’s transportation, environmental and economic goals,” Strickler said in a statement shortly after the vote.

Garrett stepped down in June after nearly 14 years at the helm.

Kris Strickler, appointed Sept. 10, 2019, to serve as director of the Oregon Department of Transportation. (ODOT photo)

Strickler will manage an agency with an annual budget of about $2 billion. He will continue carrying out projects funded by a major bill lawmakers passed in 2017 that raised $5 billion for a decade’s worth of transportation projects.

In a statement, Gov. Kate Brown called Strickler “the right person to help ODOT continue its transformation.”

“He has driven the agency’s vision for how to address the complex mobility needs of our region and brings strong interstate partnerships to bear,” Brown said.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: [email protected] or 971-304-4148.