North Plains begins search process for new city manager
By the time the hiring process is expected to finally finish, the city of North Plains will have spent more than two and a half years without a full-time city manager.
At its Aug. 7 meeting, the North Plains City Council approved a job description and timeline to bring in a new top administrator by mid-November, one of the first formal steps to replace former City Manager Martha DeBry.
The council voted not to renew DeBry's contract in 2015. She was hired in 2011 to replace longtime City Manager Don Otterman.
"The council was not pleased with [DeBry's] performance evaluation and felt Martha and the city are moving in different directions," City Councilor Scott Whitehead told the Tribune in 2015. "The full details are between her and the city. It's a positive move forward for the city and staff, and I look forward to building a positive work environment at city hall."
North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan was delicate in her description of how the city parted ways with DeBry, but frank in why North Plains tarried in hiring a replacement.
"The city was looking at saving some money," Lenahan said. "Being a small city, our coffers are limited and we're trying to be cautious and frugal with our reserves."
City officials referenced a budget "gap" of around $100,000 at the time. DeBry made $88,041 per year.
North Plains Public Works Director Blake Boyles assumed the interim city manager duties — along with his own public works duties — with the understanding he'd hand over the head administrator gig once another city manager was hired.
The city manager reports to the city council and oversees most of the day-to-day operations in North Plains, in addition to working with outside organizations like Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which both serve North Plains.
And North Plains is growing, having annexed two large parcels into the city limits over the past year.
"We have several new community neighborhoods and that takes a lot of organization and planning and working with developers," Lenahan said.
As time passed, the 'interim' tag was removed from Boyles' position. But during a review, he told other city officials he felt he needed help, Lenahan said.
So Otterman was hired as an interim city manager to take the reins from Boyles until North Plains hired a permanent manager.
As part of finalizing qualifications, city officials looked at salaries of city managers in other small Oregon towns. Lenahan said the salary range for the incoming city manager would be between $100,000 and $125,000 per year — on par with Scappoose, Milton-Freewater and Madras, all of which are considerably larger.
Other Oregon cities under 3,000 residents (North Plains was just under 2,000 residents according to the 2010 census) pay city managers between $60,000 and $109,907.
North Plains city officials will begin the recruitment process on Aug. 21 and the Local Government Personnel Institute, which is assisting the city in the search, will begin reviewing applications in late September.
The council will review candidates in early October and select finalists in mid-October.