The Metro Council has selected the agency’s next chief operating officer – and she’s coming from only a few blocks away.
Marissa Madrigal, currently the COO at Multnomah County, has been nominated by Council President Lynn Peterson to be the agency’s third chief operating officer – functionally, the staff boss and head of day-to-day operations. Madrigal’s nomination is subject to full approval of the Metro Council.
Madrigal, 41, has served in county government for nearly 14 years. She was chief of staff to then-Chair Jeff Cogen, then served as interim County Chair after his resignation in 2013. After her term as County Chair ended, she returned to the staff side of the dais, where she oversaw day-to-day operations.
She’ll have a similar role at Metro.
“Marissa is an amazing leader and is familiar with our work,” said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. “At Multnomah County, Marissa worked on many projects that are helping Oregonians every day. She helped seal the deal for the construction of the new Sellwood Bridge. She helped develop the new Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters. She helped develop the county’s workforce equity initiative.”
At the county, Madrigal had oversight responsibility on a $2 billion budget that included public health, the county sheriff’s office, capital project management, emergency management, rural roads and many of the urban Willamette River bridges.
She said she wanted to come to Metro because of the regional government’s broad scope of work.
“I think the regional impact that Metro has had, and is going to have, through planning and land use and transportation, and is having through supportive housing analysis and potential homeless service funding, it’s just a really exciting opportunity,” Madrigal said. “When you combine that with the zoo, the venues, the parks and natural spaces, you hit all my nerdy areas of interest.”
Madrigal grew up in Los Angeles and Mexico City, and went to high school in the Vancouver suburb of Ridgefield, attending Clark College before entering at the University of Washington as a junior at age 18. She graduated with a degree in zoology, then returned to Portland and started a zine called The Radioactive Pickle.
She started her political career in northern Clark County, managing campaigns in Ridgefield, Vancouver and other small Clark County cities.
“I understand the different needs of small towns versus suburbs versus big cities, and look forward to working toward mutually beneficial solutions in my role,” Madrigal said.
Her work at Multnomah County in emergency management introduced her to the possibility of a master’s degree in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School.
“Security studies are full of futurists … trying to figure out models and frameworks to hedge your bets against different threats,” Madrigal said. “As a biologist… I was wondering what was happening in your body and your brain while you’re making decisions.”
Madrigal said she plans on spending her first few months at Metro getting to know the staff.
“I loved the two-day meet and greet with hundreds of people. It gave me a really good feel for some of the priorities, she said. “I know there’s a lot to learn, both internally and externally, from our partners, and the cities and the counties.”
Madrigal replaces Martha Bennett, who served from 2011 to 2019 and is now city manager in Lake Oswego. Metro’s first chief operating officer, Mike Jordan, is now director of the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. The chief operating officer position was created in 2003 after a change in the Metro Charter to make the agency’s executive position appointed by the council, rather than elected by the public at large.
“We have an amazing workforce that’s dedicated and striving for excellence, and that’s the kind of place I want to be,” Madrigal said. “People are trying to do good work and achieving it, and that’s why other partners are turning to Metro and asking it to do new things. That wouldn’t be happening if Metro didn’t have a great reputation.”