SALEM — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is undergoing a change of leadership quicker than anticipated. 

Leah Feldon, DEQ deputy director since 2016, was appointed interim director of the agency at a meeting of the Environmental Quality Commission on Sept. 23, following the abrupt resignation of Director Richard Whitman. 

Whitman had committed to retiring at the end of 2022, but instead resigned three months early, citing "personal reasons" in an email to EQC Chairwoman Kathleen George.

Feldon's first official day as interim director will be Friday. DEQ is conducting a nationwide search to hire a permanent director. 

"I have complete confidence in Leah's ability to lead DEQ as we pursue our search for a permanent director," George said in a statement. "She has a wealth of experience and has been a steady and critical partner in setting DEQ's course since she was named deputy director in 2016."

Feldon is a member of the Oregon State Bar, earning her law degree from Lewis and Clark College in 2004. She first joined DEQ in 2005 in the Office of Compliance and Enforcement, becoming the manager of that office in 2009.

Feldon also worked as a special adviser in developing DEQ's Cleaner Air Oregon program, which regulates emissions of toxic air contaminants from industrial and commercial businesses, before being appointed deputy director. 

"I am honored and excited to take on this role as we search for a director," Feldon said in a statement. "DEQ is a great agency with a lot of talented people who care deeply about Oregon's environment. I look forward to carrying on this critically important work." 

DEQ has a $540 million biennial budget.

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