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New city manager brings experience

Street funding, airports, economic development, mill closures familiar territory for Joe Hannan


City Manager Joe Hannan may be new to town, but he brings with him relevant experience in Oregon and elsewhere that could be beneficial in addressing the issues Newberg faces.

Chief among Hannan’s skills and interests for the city is economic development, a concept that can admittedly mean different things to different people. For Hannan, it means working with businesses to establish a business-friendly climate.

“The roles are set out of, what does the city do and what does business do and how can we work together,” Hannan said. “What that means is, really, that private industry is the driver. The city does some infrastructure, but then it works to figure out how private business can do what they want.”

Along those lines, Hannan has been involved with downtown redevelopment districts – much like the process Newberg is entering into – in other cities, including Redmond, where he worked for 10 years as city manager.GARY ALLEN - Newberg City Manager Joe Hannan was sworn in June 6 after he was chosen from nearly 80 applicants nationwide for the position.

While serving as manager in Myrtle Creek in the early 1990s, Hannan also gained experience with another challenge Newberg is facing: mill closures.

In addition to working with local service organizations to help workers remain on track toward finding new employment, Hannan has gone through the process of dealing with a brownfield site – property that’s heavily contaminated from its former uses – and redeveloping the site into something new.

In his previous positions Hannan has worked with two commercial and two private airports, and said he knows a lot of the Federal Aviation Administration players since he’s worked with them for two decades – particularly relevant to Newberg with the ongoing discussions about the future of Sportsman Airpark.

Hannan placed importance on a local airport for a few reasons, including its utility in the event of a disaster. With statewide disaster exercises emphasizing the fact that cities may be cut off from services for some period of time, access via air is vital.

“Things like that become very important to bring aircraft in, being places where helicopters can come in, not just at Providence, but there,” he said.

He’s also dealt with pavement maintenance issues in previous cities, including some where there hadn’t even been a pavement condition index (a detailed assessment of a city’s road conditions) completed. Newberg has taken that step and is now working toward a plan to fund the necessary maintenance.

“Everyone’s hurting for road money, but you absolutely first need to maintain what you have, so you do some things whether it’s chip sealing, crack sealing, some kind of maintenance so you don’t lose the investment that you have,” Hannan said.

He brings some new ideas as well that have been employed elsewhere but haven’t made it to Newberg yet.

Shared work space, or “Makerspace,” is one idea he hopes to bring to town. Hannan describes it as a space that can foster creative business creation by providing tools and equipment for individuals to make things – often, people come together and share ideas and learn from each other.

Creating a shared space like that is one concept that’s being talked about as part of the downtown improvement process, Hannan said.

“That’s a real positive part of an economic development that brings the creative intelligence to a community,” he said.

Growing up in a family of blue-collar aerospace industry workers in Los Angeles, Hannan, 63, was raised with the notion that service and giving back to one’s community is essential.

He gravitated toward internships in governmental organizations and began to realize there was a place for passionate people in government positions.

“It took me a little while to figure out at what level and I found it was at local government as opposed to state or national or federal,” Hannan said.

But although he has pinpointed local as his area of expertise, he’s also dabbled in the other levels as well.

Before retiring as a lieutenant colonel, Hannan’s duties in the United States Army included some nation-building work: running elections, disaster preparedness and the like.

“I saw what it’s like to do national and international, but I said, no, where my skillset and my passion is, is at smaller communities,” Hannan said.

He’s lived in Santa Barbara, Calif., which at the time had about 75,000 people, and later Sunnyvale, Calif., which had a population of 120,000. Both communities were too big for his taste, Hannan decided. Years later, his most recent post was in Palmer, Alaska, population 7,000, where he served for about 16 months.

Although he and his wife, Shelley, enjoyed the opportunity to experience Alaska, he said in the end it was just too cold up there and they decided to return to Oregon.

Now he’s in Newberg, a city with a population right around what he identifies as ideal for the kind of community he likes living in.

“This is home,” Hannan said. “This feels right.”