By Hanna Merzbach
David Reese was selected as Lewis & Clark’s next Vice President, Chief of Staff, General Counsel and Board Secretary, concluding a search process that began in December. He will begin in May, transitioning from his position at Portland State University (PSU) as General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.
Reese worked alongside President Wim Wiewel during his time at PSU.
“(Reese) is very thoughtful, he doesn’t just jump to the easy or obvious conclusion,” Wiewel said. “I’m an intuitive person. I react pretty much from the gut. I need somebody next to me who also makes me stop that at times and reflect and think about policy and rules because those things matter. So, I think he complements me very well.”
Reese’s position will encompass a variety of assignments, including managing Wiewel’s agenda, as well as managing stakeholders. As the General Counsel, Reese will also manage all of LC’s legal affairs, as he has done for PSU.
“The biggest difference is the addition of the Chief of Staff role, which is also the most exciting,” Reese said via email. “The Chief of Staff gets to play a key role in advancing the president’s priorities and helping to move the college forward. I think it will be a very rewarding challenge.”
Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez chaired the search committee responsible for filling this position. She cited his ample experience in this type of work as a reason for his selection.
“Even though his title was not Chief of Staff at Portland State, he basically acted as de facto Chief of Staff as well for our current president,” Gonzalez said. “We were also impressed by his legal expertise. He is teaching a First Amendment course this year and he will actually have an adjunct position in our law school as well.”
While Reese is excited to continue this type of work, he looks forward to the new opportunities that this role will open up.
“I love being a college attorney and board secretary, but want to expand into new areas and responsibilities,” Reese said via email “This position will allow me to do that at a top-notch college right in Portland. I walked around campus during the interview process and was amazed by the vibrancy and beauty of it, and I’m really impressed by the tight-knit and caring nature of the community.”
One of Reese’s major priorities will be managing and implementing the college’s strategic plan.
“I want somebody who’s first and foremost thoughts everyday, certainly for the first year or so, are about implementing the strategic plan,” Wiewel said. “It’s very easy in a large organization … to have the urgent overtake the important. So, you need somebody who always stays focused on the important and does not just get swayed by the urgent.”
Both Wiewel and Gonzalez said Reese is well-suited for this task.
“I know he is going to bring a lot of his expertise in strategic planning, which we desperately need here because we are going through our strategic planning process,” Gonzalez said.
Reese will be replacing current Vice President, Secretary and Counsel David Ellis, who has served in this role since it was created in 2004.
After nearly 20 years at LC, serving as the Interim President prior to Wiewel’s selection, Ellis plans to retire.
“I had announced my retirement before I was asked to serve as Interim President in early 2017, and the chance to serve in that role was too good to pass up,” Ellis said via email. “I love this place and the students, faculty and staff who study, live and work here.”
Ellis plans to help smooth Reese’s transition process, as he did when Wiewel became President.
“I have been so impressed with how wonderful (Ellis) has been to me, how generous he has been in helping me transition into the job,” Wiewel said. “Even though it was about only nine months (that he was Interim President), that still gave him so much insight.”
While Ellis looks forward to his retirement, he has valued his time at LC.
“I think retirement is always a mixed bag,” Ellis said. “I have so enjoyed my time working at Lewis & Clark, first at the Law School, and then as General Counsel for the past 14 plus years.”
Ellis looks forward to curating his own time, despite already being offered employment opportunities.
“I have lots of hobbies … tennis, golf, skiing, playing guitar, and may get back into ceramics, which I was never any good at but enjoyed as a young man,” Ellis said. “I hope to stay involved with the life of this terrific College in some way.”
Reese will begin transitioning into the role in May, where he will work part-time along Ellis until he transitions to full-time in late July.