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Doug Schmitz moves on at a very difficult time

Opportunity in California beckons Lake Oswego's city manager to head south

Doug Schmitz is moving on.

And, oh my, what a tough time he chose to leave.

The affable Lake Oswego city manager has accepted the same position for the city of Los Altos, Calif. He begins there Sept. 10.

Schmitz is a master of making things happen. Often working behind the scenes, he has an amazing ability to see the big picture and figure out ways to bring the pieces - and the players - together. He played key roles in bringing Lake View Village, Millennium Plaza Park, miles of hiking trails and acres and acres of open space to Lake Oswego.

He is leaving at a difficult time for city government - and undoubtedly his own hand generated some of the strife. Some very expensive projects are looming for the city - and city taxpayers - and not everyone is pleased about them.

Among these are the sewer interceptor project, a new or revised city hall/emergency services facility, the Portland-Lake Oswego streetcar and the elephant in the living room, the proposed community center.

Since Schmitz was instrumental in bringing the city to the current state of affairs, we would have liked to see him stay on and finish the jobs. We recognize his special skill set to get projects accomplished and it's hard to deny that many of the things that Schmitz has been involved in have made Lake Oswego a better place.

It's sad that the community center proposal and attending purchase of the Safeco Building has proven so divisive in the community. Harsh comments and divided interests have been the focus the city has been facing in recent months, which is not the way Schmitz probably wanted to bow out.

'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 Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad and the city 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.'

Schmitz is catching Los Altos in exactly the right mode for his abilities. The California city is in the midst of pursuing large public projects to enhance the community's livability.

Schmitz is no stranger to California and its politics.

He grew up in California and served as city manager in Carmel-by-the-Sea, for nine years when Clint Eastwood was mayor. He also was assistant city manager and community development director in Laguna Beach, Calif.; city manager in Normandy Park, Wash.; and assistant city manager in Bellevue, Wash.

Now he's making a return to the Golden State. While we wish him well, we are sad to see him go. He has a great gift for managing. Unfortunately, there's simply too much unfinished - and very difficult - business that he is leaving behind.