Portland promotes from within to fill top attorney post

The city of Portland announced today that Danielle West-Chuhta has been picked as its first woman corporation counsel, a job that’s essentially the city’s top attorney.

West-Chuhta is well-known in Portland, as she’s been on the city’s legal team since 2008 and has spent the last four months as acting corporation counsel after Gary Wood retired from the post.

West-Chuhta’s appointment must still be confirmed by the city council at its Jan. 23 meeting. West-Chuhta has been nominated by a council search committee led by Mayor Michael Brennan, who announced the choice in a release today.

The corporation counsel position is just the latest high profile job to change hands in Portland over the past two years, and nearly completes what has been a huge turnover among top city jobs — the city manager, mayorsuperintendent of schoolspolice chieffire chiefdirector of planning, and deputy city manager jobs will all have been refilled after various retirements, departures and election cycles if West-Chuhta is confirmed next week.

West-Chuhta’s proposed promotion is similar to Michael Sauschuck’s path to the police chief position — Sauschuck was a high-ranking officer with the force who stepped into the chief’s office on an interim basis while a search committee scoured the country for the best permanent choice, and then settled on the guy right in front of them.

Other jobs in the list above have been snagged by well-respected professionals and subject matter leaders from around the country, including new Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria and Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk.

So Portland leaders are willing to bring in people they feel are the best and brightest, regardless of where they’ve got to bring them in from.

Back to the subject at hand. Here’s what Brennan had to say about West-Chuhta in a statement today:

Danielle’s experience and understanding of local government made her the natural choice for corporation counsel. Her unflappable demeanor is often needed when dealing with complex and sometimes controversial legal issues. She understands the city and the community and I am confident that the city’s legal team will benefit from her leadership.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.