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PORTLAND, OR-The top executive at Standard Insurance Co., Eric Parsons, will replace Matt Hennessee as chair of the Portland Development Commission. Parsons, who has been a commissioner since late 2004, was elected by his fellow commissioners this week. Parsons is president-CEO of Standard Insurance Co. and StanCorp Financial Group Inc. He started at Standard Insurance in 1968 and left in 1979 to work in the real estate industry. He returned to the company in 1990. Over the last 15 years, he has served as senior vice president and chief financial officer, vice president of investments, and president of the company’s mortgage and real estate subsidiaries. In addition to the PDC, Parsons also serves on the Oregon Business Council, the Oregon Zoo Foundation board of trustees, and the Portland Opera Board. PDC commissioners are volunteer citizens, appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council to serve three-year terms. They oversee the work of the commission staff, an annual budget of $265 million and oversight of the PDC’s more than 400 projects and programs. Last month, Bruce Warner, most recently director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, was named executive director of the PDC. He replaces Don Mazziotti who resigned earlier this year and whose last day was June 30. Warner assumed his new role on Aug. 1.The new faces come to the PDC at a rough time in its history. In recent months it has taken heavy criticism for allegedly poor execution related to RFPs and contracting and for Mazziotti’s extraordinary expense account. In early June, the agency’s financial director resigned in the midst of an outside audit of contracting practices at the city agency prompted by critical local news reports. Most recently, it took heat for putting in jeopardy a major redevelopment of the Downtown Meier & Frank department store by unwittingly drafting a public participation contract that kicked into effect prevailing wage law, prompting the developer to threaten to walk away from the $100-million project. The agency is believed to have saved the project with an 11th-hour alteration of the contract’s wording, though it never responded to a request for comment on exactly how it avoided the law. “PDC has some tremendous work ahead of it,” said Hennessee prior to his leaving. “The agency must focus on improving internal oversight, working closely with the mayor and city council and, most importantly, rebuilding the public’s trust through increased transparency and improved public participation. Bruce has a huge job in front of him… .”

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