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Phil Kushlan

Exiting CCDC exec on retirement, rocking chairs and why he would be awful at politics


Phil Kushlan doesn't have any big plans for the Fourth of July. He'll probably go to a picnic and watch some fireworks. The next day, he'll head to the office and work his last full day as executive director of the Capital City Development Corporation. Wednesday, July 6, will be his 12th anniversary at CCDC and the first day of his retirement. But Kushlan won't be a stranger to his colleagues. He'll spend a year as a consultant to help CCDC find his replacement and assist in the transition.

Does 12 years seem like a long time?

Not so much. But generally, I've been in the public administration business for 42 years.

You've managed or help manage a number of cities including Eugene, Ore., and Bellevue, Wash. Throughout the years, did you find similarities in how municipalities are managed?

The service missions are pretty standard. You know--fire, police, water and sewer. But of course, the politics differ.

Do politics push or pull much of what you do now?

I think it flavors it.

Is it a challenge to remain apolitical in this position?

Not really. You have to be politically astute, but I think there is a clear line that a professional need not cross.

Did you ever consider entering politics?

Once, back in 1977. I quickly dismissed that notion. I would be awful at politics. I'm way too blunt.

A lot of us grew up with the term "urban renewal," but you don't hear that phrase anymore.

It's considered a very passe term.

Is there a term that is more preferred?

Any one but that one. Try regeneration or reinvestment or redevelopment.

Is it fair to say that there are significant opponents to what you do, no matter what you call it?

Sure. But while we have some detractors, I think generally this organization is respected locally and around the state.

What were the factors in your decision to retire?

I'm 63.

But my guess is that you could do this for a few more years if you wanted to.

Yeah, but there's a point where there are other things to do.

Personally or professionally?

My wife and I like to travel and work sometimes gets in the way.

Is a big trip in your near future?

We're going to Finland, Estonia and Latvia.

Do you have roots there?

My wife's ancestry is Finnish. We've been to Slovenia many times, which is my ancestry.

What else will fill your days?

I don't know. I'm pretty sure that my rocking chair on our front porch will get old pretty quick.

What are the chances of you staying in Boise for the rest of your days?

Pretty much 100 percent.

Are you assisting in the search for your successor?

I helped an executive search committee define job specs. They're choosing a recruitment firm.

How long might the process take?

Longer than they think. I fully expect this process to go until September at least.

What might you tell a candidate for your job?

Boise is a pretty interesting place to be right now. The recession has certainly impacted us, but I fully expect a resurgence of our urban core.

There is probably a very small club of men and women who know how to do this job.

Quite small. You have to know about a lot of stuff. And you can't fake it. I keep telling my board that I'm not an attorney, nor do I have a law degree but it feels like I practice law about half of my time. You have to be thoroughly versed in public agency information, architecture, urban design and, of course, politics.