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Sherwood councilors name new city manager

It's only been two weeks since City Manager Ross Schultz announced his August retirement, but Sherwood city councilors say they've already found their man
by: Contributed photo, Jim Patterson, Sherwood's assistant city manager, will replace City Manager Ross Schultz in August.

Less than two weeks after city manager Ross Schultz announced his August retirement, the Sherwood City Council has named Assistant City Manager Jim Patterson as his replacement.

In a surprisingly quick turn of events, Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays announced at the council's regular Jan. 15 meeting that councilors had already interviewed Patterson and were ready to offer him the job.

'Council was ready to make a decision and so the decision was made,' Mays said. '(Patterson) was the right choice and council clearly recognized that. He has the full support of the council.'

Council voted 6-0 Tuesday night - councilor Dave Grant was absent - to offer Patterson the job.

Schultz, who has been Sherwood's city manager for the past seven years, announced his retirement on Jan. 2, and said he would continue to work through August.

'I leave knowing what a great management team is in place to help you continue to carry on that good work you do so well,' Schultz wrote to staff members the day after announcing his retirement to councilors.

According to Mayor Mays, Patterson expressed an interest in the job right after Schultz made his announcement.

'He was the only internal (candidate) who expressed an interest,' Mays said. 'I know for a fact that the rest of the senior staff was not interested in the position.'

But why didn't city councilors interview for the position or even announce the opening?

Mays said councilors discussed the issue on Saturday, Jan. 5, during a work session and then called for an emergency meeting to further discuss their options.

That meeting, which included an executive session and was not announced to the media as required by state law, took place on Thursday, Jan. 10.

'We met on Thursday to consider criteria for the city manager position and we adopted criteria that night,' Mays said. 'After that meeting we had an executive session on Saturday and interviewed senior city staff on their opinions on the city manager job.'

The mayor said councilors discussed four options for hiring a new city manager during the special Jan. 10 meeting, including conducting a national search, conducting a statewide search and placing internal candidates in the mix with external candidates. Instead of advertising the position, however, councilors decided that the one internal candidate to show interest was the best they were going to get, Mays said.

'When you have a candidate as strong as Jim Patterson … there's no reason for delay,' Mays said. 'I am confident we would not have found a candidate more passionate or more dedicated to serving the community.'

Setting up a succession plan -- in effect grooming an employee to take over for a senior administrator -- is not totally uncommon in city government, says Mike McCauley, executive director of the League of Oregon Cities.

"It's not the most likely way (to hire a city manager)," McCauley says. "But that's because most places don't have an internal candidate who is either interested or qualified for the position."

In fact, McCauley says, hiring an internal candidate may be a good option for cities like Sherwood. The League of Oregon Cities recruits city managers and McCauley said the pool of qualified candidates is shrinking.

"There is literature that shows a growing number of (cities) hiring people internally," McCauley says.

But that doesn't mean closing the process is a good thing for Sherwood.

Professor Douglas Morgan, Ph.D., is director of public administration at the Executive Leadership Institute, which is part of Portland State University's Mark O. Hatfield School of Government.

Morgan says that, for cities like Sherwood, which have grown so rapidly over the past decade, creating a sense of trust between government and the community is crucial and that having transparency in the administrative hiring process is a part of this.

"Cities like Sherwood that find themselves caught in this net of rapidly expanding growth and resources, and that fall behind meeting expectations of the community require an extra special effort on part of the council and the administrative leadership to work together in building the confidence of the community," Morgan says.

As for Patterson, he says he's humbled by the decision and was just as surprised as everyone else when council offered him the position Tuesday night.

'I'm very happy for the opportunity and am grateful to the city council for giving me an opportunity to serve my community as city manager,' Patterson said. 'I was told late last week that I was to show up at a regularly scheduled goal setting session and that I would be interviewing for the position. … This is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. Being city manager has been a goal of mine since getting into public service.'