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Lake Oswegos loss is West Linns gain

by: , Seals

The city of West Linn claimed another of Lake Oswego's core employees with the hiring last week of Richard Seals, finance director for Lake Oswego.

Seals follows Terry Timeus and Chris Jordan - a former police captain and assistant city manager in Lake Oswego - to West Linn. He is the third management-level employee to be hired from Lake Oswego by West Linn since November 2005.

For Seals, who lives in Lake Oswego, the move trades one affluent community for another as West Linn looks to ramp up its financial game.

Recovered from a string of embezzlement scandals, West Linn advertised for a financial director only after catching up on audits are putting its budgets back on track, producing documents that now win awards.

But while the city has recovered on paper, public trust has been slow to follow.

'Maybe because of the history, it's caused more folks to be more active and interested,' Seals said.

He said he looks forward to working with a curious population and to rebuilding public trust in West Linn's finances.

Jordan, now city manager in West Linn, said Seals' hire is a testament to the strength of West Linn's new management.

'I don't believe there's a better municipal finance director in the state of Oregon than Richard Seals. I consider it a real tribute to the management team we've built here at the city of West Linn that we now are able to attract an individual of Richard's caliber for this position,' he said.

The loss was keenly felt in Lake Oswego, where Seals is known for making complex financial topics simple and accessible to the public.

'I think everybody around here is kind of stunned and we're sorry to see him go,' said Stephan Lashbrook, community development director in Lake Oswego.

Lashbrook said the city will need a capable financial manager to take the reins from Seals. Seals' departure comes at a time when the city plans bond sales to fund a massive sewer repair project and ugrades to a water utility.

Seals may be credited with saving taxpayers millions on those jobs in future years. In 2006, he brought the city to its best financial posture after an aggressive four-year effort to boost Lake Oswego's bond rating from AA to AAA.

The rating is the result of years of meetings with representatives from bond rating agencies and an ongoing effort to illustrate capable long-range planning in Lake Oswego and a capital improvement process that kept city finances on a strategic track.

When he leaves Lake Oswego Oct. 17, Seals will take the relationships he has made with bond rating agencies to West Linn.

But after a 10-year stint in Lake Oswego, six of them as finance director, Seals said he looks forward to a new set of challenges, including boosting West Linn's bond ratings from AA.

'They're just poised for exciting times and that's a good time to jump on any boat, when they fixed all the leaks,' Seals said.

Prior to joining the city of Lake Oswego, Seals was the controller for the Oregon State Lottery. He also worked for the international accounting firm Price Waterhouse, once one of the eight largest accounting firms in the United States.

Seals has two undergraduate degrees and a masters degree in business administration. He maintains three professional licenses, is an active member of six professional organizations, serves as volunteer treasurer for the local Rotary Club and holds an elected citizen position with the Clackamas County Audit Committee.