City official says goodbye after nine years
Nine years ago, Randy Ealy was hired by newly elected Mayor Denny Doyle to help him run Beaverton city government as chief administrative officer.
"A lot has happened since then, and he has been instrumental in that," Doyle said.
But as Ealy moves on to a job with Portland General Electric — and reviewed many of those events in an interview — he said two things stand out during his tenure.
Virtually every department head has been appointed during the past decade to help Doyle and Ealy run a city government that employs almost 600 people and has an annual budget of $288 million.
"The part I am most proud of is helping the mayor build our team of department heads," Ealy said. "Putting the right people in City Hall is extremely important."
Beaverton is Oregon's only city with a mayor-council form of government under which the elected mayor, not an appointed city manager, is the chief executive.
The other is working with Doyle, who hired Ealy in March 2009 from Estacada.
"He didn't have to take a shot on me in 2009, but he did. He's been a great mentor," said Ealy, who is 48.
"We have different personalities, but he's taught me about remaining calm and navigating through different perspectives on issues. He doesn't rush to conclusions. He takes his time — but he will let you know where he stands."
Ealy's final day in Beaverton was Feb. 15. He begins his new job Feb. 26.
Doyle said Ealy offered relevant experience during nine years as Estacada city manager, including setting up an urban renewal district and an enterprise zone in a city of 2,400 (now 3,000).
"Those were two things Denny wanted to accomplish in Year One," Ealy said. "It was a bigger jump in terms of population, but similar sets of issues."
Urban renewal districts can be controversial — Beaverton voters decided to require popular approval of such districts in the same year they elected Doyle as mayor — and their formation freezes the taxable value of property until public works improvements are paid off through tax-increment financing.
Combined with an enterprise zone, which exempts qualifying businesses from property taxes for five years, an urban renewal district meant property tax losses for other local governments.
Ealy said both were accompanied through a series of talks with other governments — school, fire protection and park districts — and a public education campaign. Voters approved an urban renewal district for central Beaverton in 2011.
"The mayor and council wanted an urban renewal district. That's how we delivered it to them," Ealy said.
Doyle unseated Mayor Rob Drake in 2008 partly as an outgrowth of aggressive annexations by the city in 2004 of areas near the Nike campus, which is outside city limits. The actions led to intervention in 2007 by the Oregon Legislature, which barred forced annexations of that type for 35 years.
Nike contributed to Doyle's 2008 bid for mayor as the sportswear company had not done before in a city election.
"Denny put me on as the point person for the relationship between the city and Nike," Ealy said.
One result was an agreement under which the city delegated planning and permits to Washington County — the reverse of the usual pattern — to allow Nike to match development on its existing campus to its planned expansion.
"It allowed certainty for the company," Ealy said. "In return, Nike has shown it's leasing and purchasing buildings inside the city — a lot of square footage it didn't have nine years ago."
Its North American headquarters is now within city limits. Meanwhile, its world headquarters is still outside city limits. But an expansion, which the Oregon Legislature approved a tax break for in December 2012, is on its way toward completion.
The expansion totals 1 million square feet.
According to city business license records, Nike had 3,103 employees working within the city this year, compared with 1,153 in 2009.
Ealy said Doyle's "open for business" message extended to the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, which has seen its city contributions increase over the past decade.
In terms of municipal needs, Ealy said the 2014 move of City Hall to the first, fourth and fifth floors of the South Office Building in The Round will soon pay off.
The building at 12725 S.W. Millikan Way had been in receivership.
But leases to businesses on the third floor — the Beaverton Valley Times among them — generate almost $1 million annually toward retiring the debt.
Other projects are still in progress, including the Public Safety Center and the Beaverton Center for the Arts, a planned 550-seat theater to be built on the former Westgate Theater site.
Voters did reject an initial bond in 2014 to rebuild the former City Hall at 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive — which now houses police, emergency management and the Beaverton Municipal Court — to meet earthquake-resistance standards.
But voters approved a $35 million bond in 2016 to house police and emergency management in a new building at Southwest Allen and Hall boulevards, site of the city-owned Beaverton Activities Center. (The court will not move.)
"The new location pushed it over the top," Ealy said of the project, which is scheduled for groundbreaking late this year or early next year and be completed in 2020.
Before entering city management, Ealy worked for several state senators, among them two who represented his hometown of Grants Pass, Ron Grensky and Brady Adams.
With a population topping 95,000, making it Oregon's sixth largest city, Ealy said his experience in Beaverton differed from his previous jobs in Estacada and Wheeler, a coastal town of 400 where he was city manager from 1997 to 2000.
"You could fix problems just by talking with people on Main Street. I really appreciated that aspect of the job," he said.
"If someone had an immediate challenge, such as fixing a storm drain or having water run off the driveway, I could call public works and someone would fix it that day.
"Here … it takes a little more time to make those fixes."
Ealy said his combined experience in the three cities will help him as the new local government affairs manager for Portland General Electric, one of Oregon's two largest private utilities, which Maria Pope became chief executive of on Jan. 1.
"What drew me there was an opportunity to work with cities and counties under PGE's new leadership," he said.
PGE owns the Faraday Powerhouse on the Clackamas River, one mile southeast of Estacada — and PGE employees had many interactions with that city when Ealy was the city manager.
Ealy said his father also was a union electrician.
"PGE made a really good move," Doyle said.