Skip to main content Homepage


 Newsroom Detail

Environmental Quality Commission plans nationwide search for new director
Statewide, OR—Richard Whitman, director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality , today announced he will retire at the end of this calendar year. Whitman has served as the agency’s director since October 2016. He previously was director of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Department and was natural resource advisor to former Gov. John Kitzhaber and Gov. Kate Brown.

By announcing his plans early, Whitman said he is giving the agency ample time to complete a thorough national search for a new director.

“This is something I have been planning for some time,” Whitman said. “The time is right for me and for DEQ. It has been a singular honor to lead an agency that is dedicated to protecting not only Oregon’s incredible beauty and natural resources, but also the health and well-being of its people.”

The Environmental Quality Commission, which hires DEQ’s director, will contract with a recruiting consultant to assist in a national search for Whitman’s replacement. The recruitment process will include opportunities for public participation and consultation with both Gov. Brown and the new governor-elect.

“Richard has done an outstanding job of leading DEQ through some of the most challenging times in the agency’s 52-year history,” said EQC Chair Kathleen George. “DEQ is stronger and more resilient today because of Richard’s steady hand and deep understanding of Oregon’s environmental stewardship. It will be difficult for us to find someone of his caliber, but our goal is a smooth, transparent and deliberate recruitment process to find the right leader for DEQ.”

Whitman began working for the state in 1997 as the manager of the Natural Resources section of the Oregon Department of Justice, where he worked closely with multiple agencies in launching the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds . In 2008, the Land Conservation and Development Commission hired Whitman as the Director of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, where he worked with staff and many partners on efforts to protect the Metolius River, and guide urban and rural development in the Portland, Medford and Bend areas. In 2011, he was selected to be the natural resources policy director in the Kitzhaber administration. He stayed in that role assisting Gov. Brown, where he facilitated agreements to resolve water conflicts in the Klamath Basin and protect the sage grouse habitat in eastern Oregon.

"When public officials leave public service, we each ask ourselves a question: Did our time in public service make any difference? Richard’s time in governmental service did make a difference and made life better for all Oregonians,” said former Gov. Ted Kulongoski (2003-2011). “I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve with him.

"During the property rights battles over our land-use system, Richard was key in crafting Ballot Measure 49 , which gave landowners limited relief while also continuing our strong protections of farm and forest lands,” Kulongoski said. “When developers threatened to build massive subdivisions in the Metolius River Basin, he worked with local and state leaders to design a solution to preserve the river. And in the Klamath River Basin, no one has worked harder to keep tribal, irrigation and environmental communities at the table to reach solutions. We will miss his ability to bring parties together for the good of Oregon.”

Prior to working for the state, Whitman was a partner at the Portland office of Ball Janik, LLP. He also worked in California, Massachusetts and Mexico for a variety of community-based organizations and in the public sector supporting community development.

Media contact: Harry Esteve;; 503-951-3856

About Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality
The [Oregon Department of Environmental Quality]( protects human health and the environment by controlling air and water pollution, reducing the impacts of manufactured products and cleaning up contaminated properties. DEQ engages the public in decision-making and helps communities solve problems in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Contact Information