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Rhodes departs as interim city manager

In temporary role he tackled bypass, TVF&R contract and more in nine months

Nine months after coming into Newberg as temporary city manager, Steve Rhodes has left his interim position and will return to California.

While he had a decades-long career working in full-time management positions in several cities before being hired on a temporary basis in September, this was his first interim role.

“Having been through all kinds of different situations in my career really gave me the ability to hit the ground running,” he said.

And that he did. When he came into the job the city was facing some major issues, some of which had long background histories to be learned quickly.Rhodes

Besides learning the saga of the immediate turmoil that was still rippling through city departments, Rhodes had some homework to do, particularly on the Newberg-Dundee bypass. He helped negotiate the reconfiguration of the bypass terminus at Highway 219, a contentious issue that flared up during the winter months with the possibility of a lawsuit and injunction that would halt construction.

“The bypass was very big, particularly when it almost fell apart in terms of the Wilsonville Road issue, because that threatened to just stop the project,” he said.

Rhodes also stepped in during a major change for the Newberg Fire Department: the contract with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. In this case, though, his own background served particularly well – much of his management experience over the years has been in the area. He was city manager in Tualatin, as well as county administrator in Clackamas County, so TVF&R is an agency familiar to him.

Also familiar were some of Newberg’s city personnel. While he was in Tualatin Rhodes hired current Newberg interim human resources director Nancy McDonald in that city, as well as Newberg Community Development Director Doug Rux.

During his Tualatin tenure he was also acquainted with former Newberg city attorney Terry Mahr, as well as former city managers Duane Cole and Mike Warren, and he even met with Joan Austin to discuss economic development.

The bypass contention also reconnected Rhodes with people he’d known and worked with years ago: several of the Clackamas County commissioners, as well as Oregon Department of Transportation officials, associations he realized really helped with coming to a solution.

With the bypass, fire contract, mill closure, as well as trying to return city hall and the police department to a place of normalcy, Rhodes said the interim position was “far more active, I think, than I would have expected it to be.”

He also worked on the search process for a new full-time city manager, even as city personnel “dropped hints” about Rhodes sticking around on a full-time basis. But he made it clear he couldn’t commit to staying around long-term and that he hopes to do more interim work in the future instead.

During the June 20 City Council meeting Rhodes was honored and received a special dedication.

“He came to our city at a time of turmoil and instability last fall,” City Recorder Sue Ryan said. “And his professional manner and cheerful demeanor coupled with his expert guidance has helped the city steer through a turbulent time in our history.”

She then produced a custom street sign that read, “Rhodes Road,” and said that in a passing conversation, Rhodes had mentioned one thing he’s never had in his career was a street named after him.

So, a private driveway located next to the city archives building off East Second Street will be officially dubbed in Rhodes’ honor. Councilors thanked Rhodes for his service and voted to approve the street designation.

While he’s gone for now, Rhodes plans to stop in from time to time and check out how the projects he worked on have played out.

“Now I want to come back when the bypass first phase is done and see what that’s like, come down and see what downtown’s like,” Rhodes said.