“I am not just a better person. You have truly enriched my life.” “The person I refer to as coach has made me a better leader.”
These are just some of the expressions of gratitude given to Matthew Garrett, during his final meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission as director of ODOT.
Garrett leaves the agency after 22 years, and more than 14 as director – the longest serving director of any state transportation department in the nation. The commission accorded him the highest possible honor for this service: naming the Portland ODOT headquarters the “Matthew L. Garrett Building.” Workers placed the new lettering on the building Friday, June 21.
Garrett served as director of ODOT from 2005 to June of 2019, the longest of any state department of transportation director. At a function after Garrett’s final commission meeting, Governor Kate Brown’s Transportation Policy Advisor Brendan Finn called Matt “the most respected DOT director in the country.”
Earlier on Thursday, June 20, Governor Brown surprised Garrett with kind words of praise, saying that Matt was not only a gifted leader but a mentor to other state agency directors.
“He’s played a leadership role in our Executive Leadership Team and he’s mentored other agency heads,” she said. “I’m going to miss you.”
Governor Brown also signed House Bill 2881 which enlarges what Garrett calls his greatest achievement at ODOT – the Road Usage Charge Program, known as OReGO.
Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration presented Matt with a plaque commemorating his service to the nation’s transportation system.
Later, the Transportation Commission members teared up as they spoke about how Matt’s character and leadership impacted them and the state of Oregon.
Tammy Baney, chair of the OTC said: “I have yet to meet someone with your integrity. That takes courage and that takes leadership. You are beloved both inside and outside of this agency. I am not just a better person; you have truly enriched my life. You’ve created a true system to meet the needs of Oregonians.”
Alando Simpson, the longest serving member of the OTC, said: “This agency has gotten better by his leadership. I’ve grown up with him. Leadership is not easy. He is one person I’ve seen take a beating and get up and go on. I’ve learned so much about leadership by watching and listening to him. The person I refer to as coach has made me a better leader.”
Julie Brown, commissioner from southern Oregon, said: “Thank you. Your leadership is really something that will be missed in this state. We need people like to you to step up and do the right thing. There isn’t a staff member that works for ODOT that doesn’t appreciate your leadership. Big shoes to fill. We will find the right person and we will carry on your legacy.”
Vice-chair Robert Van Brocklin saved his remarks for later when he compared the leadership of Matt to the great Senator Mark Hatfield.
Matt responded to the praise by saying: “I am humbled, embarrassed and I’m blessed. The good Lord puts people in your life for a reason. He has placed you in my life and I am blessed to have known you. One person is not responsible for anything. We have leveraged the collective wisdom of everyone in this room. I walk away knowing this agency is in very good hands. You have people of the highest caliber. One ask: have a clear understanding that you serve something other than yourself or your ambition. You serve for the betterment of other people’s lives. You’re very special to me. I will take each and every one of you with me when I leave.”