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Mayor steps down as interim city manager

Mayor Scott Burge says he has a new appreciation for the position


Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge completed his term as interim Scappoose city manager Jan. 2, as Don Otterman, former Hood River interim city manager, took the reins.

Burge said his time as city manager — which began in early November with the negotiated termination of then-City Manager Jon Hanken’s contract — gave him a “heightened respect for the position.”

Otterman will now tackle the task of hiring a full-time city manager for Scappoose, a position the city expects to be filled within four months.

Burge said the city has the option to receive help from the League of Oregon Cities, though it is more expensive.

“The cheapest option is doing it yourself. Others would be $20,000 to $25,000 between searches and background checks and everything that goes along with it,” Burge said.

Before accepting the contract to hire Otterman, the City Council voted Dec. 16 for a resolution to amend a municipal code to effectively strip the city manager position of its independent ability to hire or fire city officers. On Thursday, Jan. 2, the council revised the resolution after being advised it conflicted with the city charter. The revised resolution specifies that the city manager retains hire and fire authority, but must present decisions about hiring and firing staff to council for an advisory vote before acting.

Burge said he still has reservations about the revised ordinance.

“I don’t think that the council should be into the day-to-day hiring and firing of staff,” he said at the Thursday morning special meeting.

Scappoose city councilors decided Nov. 8 to assign Burge to fill the role of interim city manager until a replacement was found. Earlier at that meeting, the City Council agreed to terminate Hanken’s contract.

Although the council voted unanimously to assign Burge to the role of city manager, some criticized the mayor for his role in the position at a later meeting. City Councilor Donna Gedlich, who initially voted for Burge to fill the role of interim city manager, said at a Nov. 18 meeting, “As acting city manager, I’m hoping that you are not getting paid, and you are looking for a job, because to me it is a conflict of interest with you being the mayor.”

Burge said he wasn’t sure why the dispute arose and said he didn’t want to comment on the issue. Burge said, however, that he has not been compensated in any way for filling the role.

Burge said the most rewarding part of being city manager was working with city staff. He said he spent the last few days in the position preparing for Otterman’s arrival.