by: Sam Bennett, 
Alex McIntyre, who starts as Lake Oswego’s new city manager March 3, got his feet wet locally last week with a quick visit.

Although he doesn't officially begin as city manager until March 3, Alex McIntyre is taking a crash course on the city's issues well before he moves here.

McIntyre came to town last Thursday, to meet some of the city's 350 employees and a few residents.

He sat in on the city council's two-day goal-setting sessions at the West End Building, learning about the city's most pressing issues.

For now, McIntyre said he's mostly focused on getting to know the city.

In an interview before the goal-setting sessions, McIntyre said he comes to Lake Oswego with experience handling big budgets.

His current position is assistant county administrator for Marin County. Before that, he was city manager of the town of Tiburon, just north of San Francisco.

'In Marin County I'm responsible for a $450 million budget,' he said.

Faced with a budget shortfall caused by the state of California's $14 billion budget deficit, McIntyre said Marin County is looking at ways to save money.

'We're trying to reduce budgets by 5 percent without impacting employees,' he said. 'We're trying to avoid the layoff issue. I think there's always creative issues.'

When times are good, McIntyre said government employees should be rewarded. But when times are tough, he said governments need to look at taking measures such as hiring or salary freezes.

'I look at the operation of a city as being not unlike that of a business,' he said.

Nationally, McIntyre said he sees the country going into a recession.

'There are a number of signs everywhere,' he said, referring to declining housing sales and the mortgage crisis affecting subprime borrowers and lenders.

The city council last fall passed a two-year budget, so it is unclear if and how a recession would affect the city in the near term.

One pressing issue will be overseeing the lake interceptor project, which will cost Lake Oswegans more than $100 million and must be completed by 2010.

Like his predecessor, Doug Schmitz, McIntyre comes to Lake Oswego with experience in being a city manager in an affluent town.

Yet he said he doesn't want to impose solutions that worked in Tiburon on Lake Oswego.

'I'm going to be careful not to Californiaize Lake Oswego, and use solutions that worked in California,' he said. 'There's probably a good reason those solutions won't work here.'

Still, he said the redevelopment of downtown that Schmitz began with Millennium Plaza Park and Lake View Village appears to be a positive change.

'Redevelopment is a great tool to utilize when a community needs it,' he said. 'It's just visually appealing and makes being here more desirable.'

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