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City hires new HR director

West Linn finds one of its own to lead the personnel department

City manager Chris Jordan recently announced that he had appointed Jeri Knudson to the permanent position of director of Human Resources and Risk Management.

Knudson has served as interim director of the Human Resources department since last fall when the position was vacated.

'Her performance in this (interim) capacity has been exceptional,' Jordan said, 'and it demonstrated that she could fill this important position permanently.'

She has worked in the HR department for more than 17 years. For about eight years of her West Linn career, she also filled in as acting HR director when previous part-time directors were off-duty.

'In the past six months, she has performed very well under the stress and pressure of labor negotiations and budget preparation,' said community services coordinator John Atkins. 'And everyone was just tickled that she has been given this opportunity.'

Knudson has begun the traditional six-month probationary period in her role as HR director.

A West Linn resident, Knudson has been a city employee for the past 19 years - working her way up from her first job in January 1988 as a part-time clerk for the municipal court.

But it wasn't longevity of employment that got her the top management position. Knudson is not only skilled at her job, but also well liked throughout the city - including those who must sit across the negotiating table from her.

'(Knudson) cares about the employees,' police chief Terry Timeus said. 'She knows labor law, and if she doesn't know something she's not afraid to dig out the people who know the answers. She's easy to work with. I'm real happy with (Knudson's promotion).'

Respect is the key word when describing Knudson's abilities in dealing with other people, especially in labor negotiations.

'We have made a commitment to be very respectful, even with disagreements' she said, 'We all have to work together at the end of the day.'

Jordan recognized that he had a longtime city employee who had gained a lot of knowledge through experience as well as years of college classes and seminars.

'Her knowledge of personnel issues and her experience with West Linn staff will be a tremendous asset to me and to the rest of the management team,' Jordan said.

Knudson seems to have a encouraging instinct toward city employees, keeping their interests high among her priorities. She admits that it is the employees who motivate her to keep coming back to work each day.

'I want to make sure that all employees have a safe work environment,' she said. 'If their needs are met and they feel secure, they will be able to provide all the services that the community expects.'

Among many others some of Knudson's tasks are recruitment, crafting job descriptions, maintaining all personnel records, enforcing all state and federal workplace regulations, ensuring correction of unsafe working conditions and providing counseling or mediation to employees with grievances.

Rather than take a lot of credit for her actions, Knudson emphasizes her support for Jordan and the city council and gives them credit for leadership to make the city a better place to live.

'Chris (Jordan) is such an integral part of this community,' she said, 'and his success is important.'

Knudson has been taking college-level classes for years with the goal of earning a bachelor's degree in business.

The fact that the position wasn't advertised outside of the city of West Linn is a measure of the confidence that Jordan has in Knudson, according to Atkins.

'(Jordan) says that if we have a good candidate who has performed well,' Atkins said, 'why not give them an opportunity to perform on a permanent basis?'

It's not only a commendation to (Knudson), but also it lets all the other employees know that there's a place for them here long-term, if they perform well.'

But for positions where a qualified pool of applicants is not available from within city ranks, Atkins says, the city will often recruit applicants from outside sources. The currently open finance director position, he said, is a good example.

Knudson, who has children and grandchildren nearby, spends a lot of time taking photos - mainly outdoor scenes, although she also has photographed people at events.

'I have a passion for photography,' she said. 'Whenever I have an opportunity to take pictures, that's something I really enjoy. It's a lot of fun.'