September 10, 2015

Tavo Cruz

Commissioner Gustavo J. Cruz, Jr. (Tavo) joined the PDC Board in July 2015. He is of counsel at the law firm Farleigh Wada Witt with a practice in commercial finance, corporate finance and general business matters. He’s also a lifelong Portlander, a rugby fan, and an active member of his neighborhood association in Northwest Portland. Read more in his “three questions” interview below.

Why did you say yes to Mayor Charlie Hales’ request to serve on the PDC Board?

I’m a native Portlander, and I’m very interested in the development of our city. Obviously this is a neat opportunity to participate in that growth and development and give something back to the community. I also think I have a unique set of skills and background that might be useful in this role, having been a banker and a lawyer and president of my neighborhood association. I’ve been involved in other nonprofit boards; I’ve been the chair of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for a number of years now. All of that allowed me to bring some things to the table that are a little different from other potential commissioners. A lot of very respected leaders in our community have been in this role; it’s an honor and maybe even a touch daunting to follow in those footsteps. So I have to bring my A game.

What are you most looking forward to as a commissioner?

Participating in the projects and seeing the development of some of the new projects that are coming along is really exciting. For example, the post office transaction is really an incredible opportunity. I remember going to the train station and walking by the post office when I was a little child. We used to go there sometimes after church because my parents thought it would be fun for a little boy to see the trains. I remember walking around that whole parcel from a very early age and thinking it was such an interesting place. And now fast forward, that’s an opportunity that’s right next door that I’m really looking forward to participating in. Same with Centennial Mills, although I don’t have quite the same emotional attachment to that property. But it’s still a neat opportunity for our city to do something nice with that stretch of the waterfront. There are many other opportunities –what’s going to happen with Memorial Coliseum or the Portland public schools property? I think there will be properties that will see transformative change in the next few years, and it’s really exciting to participate in that, as well as to see other kinds of development in our city, not necessarily real estate-based but in terms of bringing in new companies, introducing companies from out of state. PDC gets involved in all these initiatives, and I think it’s really cool, and I’m looking forward to that.

What would you like us to know about you?

Professionally: When I first came out of college I did management training at US Bank; I did all kinds of analysis for commercial credit, and that was really a great experience. But after I’d done it for about seven years I could see that the clock was ticking if I wanted to do something else with my professional life so I decided to go back to law school. I

[worked at] Davis Wright Tremaine, then went back to banking as an in-house bank lawyer for US Bank. That put me in a different role, gave me a different flavor for things. Ultimately I went back to private practice, and now I’m at Ater Wynne. But I’ve stuck with business law and business transactions. I never got away from banking in my career, basically.

Personally: My Hispanic heritage comes from my dad’s side of the family. My dad was from Guatemala; he moved to the US in the 1950s to go to college (Baylor University in Texas), and then moved to Portland to take a job at OHSU which was then University of Oregon Medical School. He stayed here, liked it here, met my mother up here. I still have all kinds of relatives in Guatemala; I have more cousins and second cousins and other remote relatives than you could possibly imagine. I have gone [to Guatemala] many times over the years and always had a great time. I’m the distant cousin from Portland, Oregon of all places, and they’re always very gracious to me. I’m somewhat bilingual; I wish my Spanish was a little better, but it’s use it or lose it. It was a little better when I was younger; I’ve allowed it to get away from me. But there’s still time! Occasionally I’ve gone to Mexico on vacation, and it’s really fun to go there and practice and have the pacing and the rhythm and accent that you get when you’re immersed in Spanish.

I’m single (divorced). I have a son, Declan. He’s 14, he’s going to Lincoln High School this year (as a freshman.) Go Cardinals! It’s very exciting to me to see him go back there. It’s kind of unique to see our kids go back to our high school. He plays football and he wants to play rugby. I used to play rugby; I was an avid player. I still think it’s a great sport. Occasionally I travel to go to the rugby World Cups. I’m not going this year which I kind of regret. I went to the World Cup in the UK in 1999 and had a fantastic time; of course I had to follow up by going to Australia in 2003 and France in 2007. That was a passion of mine for many years.

I have devoted a lot of my free time to neighborhood issues the last few years. I’ve been president of my neighborhood association – Northwest District Association – which if I had more time, if I were retired, could be a full time job. I’ve made a lot of friends and built a lot of relationships I would not have otherwise made; I’ve been exposed to a lot of issues I wasn’t aware of. It’s been a lot of fun. Some of the inter-neighborhood disputes can be kind of taxing, but I really enjoy the people. It’s kind of an honor to be in that position, too, and fun to see the development of our neighborhood.

I like to read, I like movies. Right now I’m reading a mystery by a Swedish writer, Henning Mankell. I tend to read more nonfiction. The last movie I really enjoyed was The Third Man, the Orson Welles original, at Cinema 21, a restored version. I hadn’t seen it for years and had forgotten how great it was and how brilliant Orson Welles was. Cinema 21 is practically down the street from my house.

I try to keep up with all the new places that come along. I’ve wanted to go the Bollywood Theater for quite a while; I haven’t made it over there. I love Indian food. Northwest Portland is now pretty developed and pretty mature as a retail commercial area; it’s fun to go to other neighborhoods now and see that development occurring over on Alberta and Mississippi and Williams. All of those corridors have some really interesting things going on.

*Bonus Question! As a lifetime Portlander, what are the biggest changes you see – and what would you like to keep the same?

Northwest Portland is the most dramatic change in my mind. If you walk through that neighborhood now it’s impossible not to be struck by how sophisticated it is and how much the economics have changed. A lot of the change comes along so slowly that you don’t think about it every day. When I step back and reflect and think about what it was like when I was 6 or 9 or 15 years old– you really see the dramatic change. What I don’t want to lose is the sense of community we had, and the sense of neighborliness and friendliness that Portland has always been known for. People who move here now tell me that it’s still a very friendly place compared to other cities, and when they come here they’re often surprised at how readily people welcome them or give them direction, or say hello to them, or some other gesture you wouldn’t necessarily get in ano7ther community. I hope that we never lose that, and as big and successful and developed that we get, I hope some of those small interpersonal gestures remain with us. It would be a shame to lose that character.