Grabbing the tiger by the tail

The Willamette Week beat us to the announcement that Nicholas Caleb, who has been the staff attorney at Neighbors for Clean Air since last March, will be leaving.  In fact, today is his last day.

The board and other staff members are very grateful to Nick for his work this past year.  He stepped into the organization at a time when literally the best we could do was say grab a piece of the tail and hang on.  I knew it would take a special kind of person to walk in to a leadership role at this tiny organization, a month after the US Forest Service moss study revealed wide-spread industrial metals contamination. Personally, Nick became a great friend and confident through tumultuous and not always friendly waters.  I appreciated his calm and his maturity.  We wish him the best, not the least for the reason that whatever work Nick takes on, I know it will be dedicated to a higher public good.

But Nick’s leaving also signals a bigger transition and growth for our organization.  Having a full time staff attorney was the strategic plan we wrote when we opened our doors back in 2010, and when dealing with the issue of toxic air pollution was more the work of an expert who could dive into arcane permits and corners of air emissions regulations.  Over the course of the next few months, NCA will be finalizing a new staffing plan, with more resources dedicated to communications and community organizing, designed to meet the current needs of communities in Oregon to address toxic air.

One huge shift in our work plan for this year is the Meyer Memorial Trust funded Breathe Oregon project, a collaboration with Portland State University and Northwest Environmental Defense Center.  We are thrilled to announce that Tori Cole will be joining NCA in mid-April to be NCA’s Breathe Oregon Project Manager.  Tori has a JD from Lewis and Clark Law School, gaining specific experience in air regulations as a volunteer for the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. For the last few years, she has been a community organizer for SEIU Local 503. Tori’s legal background, strong Spanish language skills, and community organizing experience make her an incredible fit to lead NCA’s multi-faceted Breathe Oregon effort to deepen and strengthen community engagement through informed advocacy.

Air regulations still require unique expertise, and NCA is committed to retaining that.  But we also acknowledge that community engagement and education need to be significantly strengthened if we are to see real progress towards our goal of realizing clean air all the time for everyone.  In order to be successful, NCA will need to be an organization that reflects the diversity of Oregon communities.   NCA is grateful to Meyer Memorial Trust who is supporting this critical Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work through a grant to assist NCA’s board, staff and volunteers in our growth as an organization.

Look for more information in the coming months. In the meantime, please join us in wishing Nicholas Caleb all the best as he embarks on the next steps of his journey.  And please help us give Tori Cole a warm welcome to the NCA family.  You can reach her at



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