Both finalists for the vacant Clatsop County administrator job say they're dedicated to local government.

Scott Derickson and Mike Morgan will come to Astoria Monday for interviews with county commissioners, followed by a reception at the Duncan Law Seafood Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. that is open to the public.

The county commissioners are scheduled to meet Tuesday to make their choice.

The county received a total of 59 applications for the administrator position, which opened last May with the retirement of Jim Azumano, but Derickson hadn't planned to be among them, he said. He wasn't looking to leave his job as Warrenton city manager, which he's held since 2000, and didn't consider the vacant county post until several people suggested he add his name to the list of candidates.

"They said they felt I would be a good fit," he said.

Derickson said he has a passion for local government. He earned degrees in public administration and in planning and public policy at the University of Oregon, and spent four years as a senior management analyst for the Umpqua Regional Council of Governments in Douglas County.

"I love working at the level where the rubber meets the road, the place where the issues get resolved," he said. "I believe local government provides the best opportunity for citizens to get things done."

One of the county's top priorities is the development of a long-term financial plan, and

Derickson said he can draw on his experience at Warrenton and his previous jobs for that project. His background will also be helpful as the county looks for a new community development director to replace Bill Armold, who died in July.

"I think my ability to understand organizational culture and organizational development lends itself to pursuing the county's goals," he said.

In Douglas County Derickson provided consulting services in municipal administration, personnel management, finance, planning, grant writing and other areas.

During his four-year tenure with Warrenton the city has grappled with such challenges as funding a new water system, meeting state directives to upgrade its sewer facility, and dealing with transportation and wetlands issues.

But the city has also tried to look beyond immediate problems with a visioning project that gathered citizen input about Warrenton's longterm future. The project was nominated for the League of Oregon Cities 2002 Good Governance Award.

Of his tenure in Warrenton, Derickson said he's most proud of the staff the city has assembled.

Mike Morgan and his wife visited Clatsop County recently to get a taste of the area. Morgan said he's not familiar with the North Coast, but got a sense of the diversity among the different communities.

Morgan has been administrator for Jefferson County, a rural county of about 20,000 in central Oregon, since 1996.

As a home rule county, Clatsop County's government offers more professional challenges and opportunities, Morgan said. Administrators typically have more discretion and direct authority over county business in home rule counties, although the county commissioners remain in charge of policy decisions.

Morgan has experience in an area of interest to Clatsop County - building a new jail. Jefferson County sought and won voter approval for a $10 million, 156-bed jail and law enforcement facility that opened two years ago.

The new facility replaced an aging, overcrowded 18-bed jail located in the basement of the courthouse that required the county to turn loose dangerous offenders for lack of space. Parole and probation clients were also violating their supervision rules with impunity, Morgan said.

The county had failed twice before to gain voter approval for a new jail, he said. A key to the jail bond's success was the work of a diverse citizens committee that gathered information and helped educate citizens about the project.

"I am absolutely convinced that when the public has all the facts, they will inevitably make the right decision," he said.

Morgan also has experience with timber issues, having served on a local panel in Wyoming that gave input on a plan for a national forest. The harvest cutbacks implemented by the U.S. Forest Service were a blow to the local economy, he said.

"We had to find ways to transition from resource-dependent industries to a more balanced economy," he said. "(But) you can never let resource jobs go entirely, they're a critical part of the mix of employment."

Morgan said he wouldn't tout any of his own particular strengths.

"All the professionals at my level have the basic essential skills - they can put a budget together, they have good communications, they're well-educated and well-informed," he said. "The people who will determine if I have real strengths will be the county commissioners."

Morgan said he also is a believer in local government. He and other county administrators have helped fund a scholarship at Boys State and Girls State for young people studying public administration.

"We really believe in public service," he said. "It's a calling. You don't do it for the bottom line."

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