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38 vie for top city position

It's a good time to be applying for city manager jobs in Oregon.

Four cities, including Lake Oswego, have either begun the hunt for a new city manager or will begin soon.

The other cities are Salem, Eugene and Bend. Eugene has started looking and has hired Bennett Yarger Associates to filter out qualified applicants. Salem and Bend will begin looking soon.

Lake Oswego got a head start in its search. The fact that other cities are hiring has probably not reduced the applicant pool for Lake Oswego's city manager, according to Bill Avery of William Avery and Associates of Los Gatos, Calif.

Avery said he has received 38 applications for Lake Oswego's city manager - a better-than-average number.

'City managers tend to be very specific in terms of places they're interested in,' said Avery.

Lake Oswego hired Avery and Associates in September, after former City Manager Doug Schmitz announced he would be leaving Lake Oswego after 15 years to be the city manager in Los Altos, Calif. He moved in at the end of August.

Stephan Lashbrook will fill his post through March or earlier, depending on how quickly the city council makes its choice.

Avery said he advertised nationally, in publications such as Western City Magazine, International City Managers Association newsletter and the League of Oregon Cities newsetter.

He could not comment on specifics of the applicants, but said they are primarily from western states. Many, he said, work for municipal governments and in most cases have master's degrees in public administration.

Of the 38 applicants, Avery will narrow the field to 12 to 15. He will interview those candidates and recommend six to eight top choices when he meets with the council Dec. 18. That meeting will be an executive session and closed to the public.

Lake Oswego Public Affairs Director Jane Heisler said the city has not determined a salary for the new city manager. But she said Schmitz was making about $150,000 a year. The new city manager's salary will be 'open and competitive,' she said.

Heisler said it's possible that, with several other cities attracting city manager candidates, Lake Oswego will have to up the ante to attract its top choice.

'There's lots of ways to sweeten the pot,' she said, referring to drawing candidates to Lake Oswego. Aside from meeting salary demands, she said the city could offer a car allowance, such as providing a city vehicle for his or her use.

Heisler said one of the city's selling points would be that it is a 'manageable city,' with 36,000 residents and 342 full-time city staffers.

'We have a smaller bureaucracy and this is a place where you can get things done,' said Heisler. 'It's got a smaller town feel. That's something that's certainly attractive.'

'The bigger the city, the bigger the problems,' she added.

Eugene, by comparison, has 150,000 residents and 1,550 full-time city employees.

For Lake Oswego, time is of the essence.

'We want to move as quickly as we can, yet allow us to be thorough,' Assistant City Manager David Donaldson said.

The city doesn't want to let the search process 'lose momentum,' he said.

The city council will interview finalists in January and most likely make its decision on the new city manager by the end of that month.