City manager finalists mingle with public at reception
Event at WLACC provided opportunity for public to engage with prospective managers
With five finalists gathered at West Linns Adult Community Center March 31, residents came in droves for a chance to meet their next city manager.
The public reception, preceded by a private meet-and-greet with the City Council, was designed as a chance for the public to chat with the candidates before formal interviews took place during an executive session April 1 at city hall.
This has been an exhaustive effort, said Greg Prothman, president of the Prothman search firm hired by the council to conduct the search. This has been the culmination of three months of work where we were directed by council to direct a national search for our next city manager.
The finalists Casey Bradley, Lenda Crawford, Benjamin Marchant, Richard Seals and Eileen Stein were formally announced March 23. After an initial meet-and-greet session with the public March 31, they were called up to a podium for a short round of question and answer.
Having volunteered to go first, Crawford provided attendees with an overview of her past experience. She was particularly proud of her time in Redmond, where she served as chief financial officer for 16 years.
Redmond is one of those cities that grew a lot during the time I was there, Crawford said. We saw growth in a five-year period that was actually meant to take place over 20 years according to our comprehensive plan.
Crawford then drew from a set of questions submitted by the public. Asked to describe a project that involved community engagement, she jumped to an initiative she oversaw as deputy director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
This (question) is fairly easy, and the project Im going to identify is a community workforce agreement that I was responsible for leading for the Department of Transportation, Crawford said. The workforce was for a seawall waterfront project, and it involved bringing together leaders from the city, mayors office, council offices, as well as from community groups and labor unions.
So what we had to do was negotiate a project agreement that took into consideration all of their various interests ... we did it in record time; we only had a couple months.
Speaking next, Marchant said he was currently the city manager at Coquille a wonderful little community of 4,000 people.
Marchant noted that he originally aspired to be an international diplomat before finding his way into government. Little did I know how important those (diplomatic) skills would be in city management, he said.
Asked how he would handle a situation in which he disagrees with the decision of the City Council, Marchant said whether or not I agree with the outcome is irrelevant.
When it comes to making decisions that are going to be in best interest of the city and community, its my job to make sure the council is as well informed as they possibly can be, he said. And at end of day it is their privilege to represent the people and cast votes that count.
For me, in order to sleep well at night, I have to know that I did my job to tell them every alternative and every option that they had at their disposal.
In introducing herself next, Stein currently city manager in Mt. Angel highlighted her strong ties to Oregon.
Having been in Oregon since 1990, I have quite an extensive network, she said. I have a strong point in intergovernmental relations and I love working with the community on projects.
West Linn, to me, respresents an opportunity to bring my experiences together, my 14 years of experience as a city manager, with the projects West Linn is facing and with an enjoyment of engaging the community.
Stein was then asked how she would increase trust and communications between residents and the local government.
If you dont have credibility, if you dont have trust with your community, you dont have anything to really offer, she said. In terms of building trust, communication, communication, communication is really the key. Involvement, access, being accessible to community, making yourself out there in the community, interacting these are all things that really build rapport.
Speaking next, Richard Seals an internal candidate who currently serves as West Linns chief financial officer noted that many in the room already knew him.
To our external candidates, thank you all, this is very exciting, he said. Know that our employees are awesome here.
Fittingly, Seals was then asked about his experiences with hiring quality personnel.
Oftentimes Im a participant but I dont make the actual decision, Seals said. Hiring quality staff is an art really, rather than a science. ... Its not about the resume so much, its about the quality and character of a person. Thats what I look for in hiring quality staff.
As it happened, the candidate who traveled furthest for the interview spoke last. Hailing from North Dakota, where he serves as chief operating officer for Stutsman County, Bradley said he was excited about the prospect of moving to West Linn.
My wife and I have four kids, he said. The community here is great, the schools are tremendous, and thats one of our biggest concerns is getting into a community with great education opportunities for our kids... West Linn is a very impressive community and the great turnout tonight is a show of support from the community.
Bradley was then asked about his experience working sustainability initiatives. Any time we look at renovating facilities, we look at renewable options that can be attached to the project, he said. Sustainability as a priority is an overall goal that should be adopted by council if thats the direction they want to go, and if thats the policy, the city managers role is to implement that policy whenever possible and whenever practical and make recommendations based on that policy.
Formal interviews took place April 1 at City Hall. Moving forward, officials confirmed that the City hopes to announce its final decision at Mondays City Council meeting.