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Lake Oswego city manager will head to California

Los Altos is the next stop in Doug Schmitz's professional career

Saying he has 'new causes to pursue,' Lake Oswego City Manager Doug Schmitz announced Friday he has been selected as the city manager of Los Altos, Calif. He begins Sept. 10.

Schmitz is credited with helping transform the look of downtown Lake Oswego - bringing in new developments such as Lake View Village and the adjacent community gathering spot Millennium Plaza Park.

Schmitz leaves at a pivotal time, as the city faces the largest infrastructure projects in its history. They include the $100 million sewer interceptor project, a new or renovated city hall/police station and a new community center.

'I think 15½ years for a chief executive of such a dynamic organization as Lake Oswego's, in a perpetually energized community, is ample,' Schmitz said in a letter to the mayor and council. 'The organization can benefit from new leadership, ideas and priorities and I can benefit from new causes to pursue, new issues to undertake, new projects to commence and complete.'

Val Carpenter, mayor pro tem of Los Altos, said the council there is 'confident that Doug Schmitz is exactly who the city needs to address the challenges and opportunities before us. His track record in designing, funding and implementing large public projects will serve Los Altos well.'

Schmitz has been instrumental in the city's acquisition of 300 acres for parks and open spaces and implementing programs related to two open space bond measures.

'He has had a creative touch on all these projects,' said Mayor Judie Hammerstad. 'The building of Millennium Plaza Park has Doug's signature, with the emphasis on beauty and lasting value.'

Schmitz's work style has been collaborative, as he worked with the mayor and council to implement yearly goals, according to Hammerstad. Schmitz, she said, gave the goal-setting sessions a sense of urgency and also played an important role in pointing out the city's infrastructure needs.

In recent months, Schmitz, the council and mayor have taken heat for the 2006 purchase of the West End building from Safeco - a $20 million property that officials hope can be renovated into a community center.

A group fighting the purchase gathered enough signatures this spring to put a measure on the November ballot that would restrict future land purchases by the city to $2 million or less. If approved, voters would have a chance to vote on whether the city should keep or sell the West End building.

Hammerstad said she and the council, along with Schmitz, will 'take joint responsibility, credit, and, for some, blame" for buying the building.

Jerry Wheeler, CEO of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, said Schmitz had a passion for renovating downtown.

'The changes he and the council made brought more traffic and more people downtown and a different mix of businesses,' said Wheeler. 'As a whole, the community benefits more because the businesses bring in more tax dollars.'

The new mix came at a cost, as small, long-time Lake Oswego businesses were displaced from the downtown core or put out of business, to be replaced with restaurants or shops that are part of local or national chains.

Yet most council members agreed that the changes were for the better.

'His vision has been the consistent view of what the city could be that has led us along toward a consistently improved place,' said Councilor Elynor 'Ellie' McPeak.

Hammerstad said Schmitz is talented in working behind the scenes with property sellers, developers and contractors - helping negotiate deals for the city and guiding projects through to completion.

For all his influence, Schmitz keeps a quiet, studied presence during council meetings, speaking up when necessary or addressed by the council.

'Doug is an introvert and has a tendency to kind of hold back,' said Councilor John Turchi. 'He was a good negotiator (on property acquisitions) and didn't push people.'

Turchi said downtown has 'changed in ways I would never have dreamt possible 10 or 15 years ago,' noting Lake View Village and Millennium Plaza Park. Schmitz is also credited with bringing the development of 20 miles of pathways around the city.

'I would describe him as a rock star of city managers, especially in the area of re-development,' said Turchi. 'I wish him well, but I think the city will be poorer without him.'

'He's done a wonderful job for Lake Oswego,' said City Attorney David Powell. 'Working with him pretty closely, I've seen the effort he puts into it. He's the city manager here 24/7. That's how much he cares.'

'He's able to assemble people who brainstorm and come up with good concepts and are very creative,' Powell said.

The city council this week is expected to begin work on finding an interim replacement for Schmitz.

Hammerstad said the city will look for someone who can continue work on the Lake Grove Village plan and the Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar proposal.

'I don't know how we'll get someone as fine a man as Doug,' said McPeak. 'I really am not looking forward to his departure.'