John Atkins accepts city manager position after 14 years at WL

John Atkins Jr., will be leaving his office in city hall for the last time in a couple of weeks, but he's leaving with a smile on his face.

That characteristic smile has kept him in relationships with many people over the past 14 years. And it likely will be a positive factor in his new job as city manager of the city of Molalla.

Atkins' exit smile also is being influenced by other factors: He got a promotion, achieved his final career goal of city manager and capped it with a small salary boost.

But Atkins, 64, will need that smile to help ease the tension that exists within the city council that hired him.

Even though last week's final vote to approve Atkins' work agreement and contract was unanimous, the initial vote was 4-2 and there were a lot of words exchanged over the council not hiring the current interim city manager, Mike Clarke, who was Molalla's mayor until Dec. 15, 2006, when former city manager Gene Green left Molalla to become West Linn's director of public works.

But Atkins says he's up to the test of bringing consensus to a council and city that is on the edge of growth and improvement, including a new industrial park, downtown redevelopment and transportation improvements as well as revision of the city's urban growth boundary and an upgrade of its comprehensive plan.

Molalla also will challenge Atkins in its need for revenue and leadership as the city goes through more growing pains. But with a strong background in the technical, organizational and political aspects of local government, Atkins says he is ready for the opportunity.

Atkins leaves West Linn with mixed feelings because he has felt needed in a city that has been understaffed for some time. During those years while in his present job, he served as acting city manager, acting finance director and took on many extra responsibilities.

'John has been the 'go-to' guy on the city staff,' said City Manager Chris Jordan, 'the person who fills in the gaps when projects don't neatly fall into the responsibility of one department or another.'

The variety of assignments that Atkins carried to successful conclusions is testament to his abilities and dedication to a job.

Atkins said he especially liked serving as acting city manager.

'My work as acting city manager has been very satisfying,' he said, 'in that you get to collaborate with others and orchestrate staff and resources to focus on a specific problem or challenge. You also get to provide mentoring and you have opportunities for leadership.'

Atkins is the type of person who gets a lot of satisfaction out of getting things done. He's a hands-on kind of guy, according to local business owner Mark Jorgenson.

'(Atkins') service to the community was far reaching and touched all of us in some way,' Jorgenson said. 'His attention to detail coupled with wise counsel and good humor provided a base that made all things possible.'

Local resident Greg DiLoreto, who saw Atkins' work more closely as a member of the 10th Street Task Force, complimented him for his work with 'several different administrations through difficult times in our city.'

Jorgenson praised Atkins for his exemplary work to benefit the West Linn Old Time Fair, Farmers and Artists Market and summer community concerts. He also took notice of his efforts to bring funding to promote tourism to West Linn by contacting the Clackamas County Tourism and Development Council and of his ability to work with groups that were struggling to achieve consensus.

'I worked with John on the 10th Street Task Force,' Jorgenson said, 'and got to witness first hand, once again, his ability to work with groups of people often at odds with one another over ideas and goals. I have never seen him lose his cool or objectivity when assisting others through a thorny situation.'

Local businesswoman Molly Macom served on the West Linn Old Time Fair committee while Atkins was a city liaison to the committee. She says he was a great help.

'John is so organized,' she said. 'He kept our meetings on track and moving along smoothly. Plus, he always had a smile on his face.'

Among Atkins' accomplishments is the development of a network of neighborhood associations.

'There were three neighborhood associations active in West Linn when I came aboard in 1993: Robinwood, Bolton and Willamette,' he said. 'One of my early successes was to establish a neighborhood support program, and to expand the neighborhood association network to 11, covering the whole city.'

Atkins also worked with volunteers to produce the West Linn Sustainability Strategic Plan, which he says he will look back on with pride.

'I will look back on (that success) with real satisfaction,' Atkins said, 'knowing that it will pay dividends to the community for a long time to come as its recommendations are implemented.'

Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester has worked with Atkins the entire time he has been with the city, and he says Atkins was a 'key link.'

'John Atkins has always been a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy,' Worcester said. 'He has been a great resource for staff and citizens alike, and a key link in the communication chain from the city to our citizens and vice-versa.'

Jordan admits that it will be difficult to replace Atkins.

'John's experience and knowledge of the West Linn community cannot be replaced,' Jordan said. 'He has served West Linn with professionalism and a sense of humor, and we'll miss him both as a colleague and as a friend.'

Before leaving, Atkins restated his mixed feelings about leaving a post that he loves.

'I've gotten a lot of satisfaction out of working in West Linn,' Atkins said. 'They've been the best years of my career - because of the people that I work with and the people that I work for.'

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