County Commissioner Lianne Thompson brought jars of honey from her family trip in the Midwest to share with fellow commissioners and staff at a board meeting on Wednesday night.
The gifts were a personal touch, but given the salty relationships between the Board of Commissioners and the past few county managers, they were also a little symbolic.
“They sent us sweetness,” Thompson said. “They sent me back with a gallon of Michigan honey to share with my colleagues to celebrate the sweet moment that our new county manager brings to us. May all your days here be as sweet as this honey.
“Cheers to Don Bohn.”
Bohn, the former assistant county administrator in Washington County, is the county’s 10th manager over the past two decades. He replaces Cameron Moore, who retired after less than three years on the job after clashes with some on the county commission.
Monica Steele, the county’s budget director, served as interim county manager until Bohn started in mid-September.
“She’s done a great job and I respect the job that she’s done,” Bohn said, saying he looks forward to working with Steele.
Bohn said he is not bound by the turbulent history of the county manager post and is optimistic about the future.
“You have to be a realist about working in the public sector and not everybody’s going to embrace the organization, embrace the decisions and that’s assumed,” he said.
“But what I think is the most important thing for local governments is, no matter what, maintain quality relationships with everybody. Keep dialogue open, not take it personally. Just be available, be transparent.
“And so I think the more we can embody those qualities, disputes are just one-time affairs. They’re not something you repeatedly have to deal with. Because sometimes what you are dealing with is really history, because people don’t forget.”
Bohn was the assistant county administrator for Washington County for 28 years.
“One thing I’ve learned is every individual has their own way and my way, my methods, my approach would be unique,” he said.
“And so, what I just hope is that uniqueness fits what Clatsop County needs and I think that it does because I’m really relationship-based, I’m a listener. And so I think that will be the right approach. So I’m very positive and very hopeful and I feel blessed to be here, honestly.”
Bohn has spent the past 30 years coming to the region as his wife, Stacee Larson, was born and raised here and still has family in Naselle, Washington. They also have a second home in Astoria.
After starting as a management intern in Washington County, Bohn eventually moved up, overseeing human resources for a workforce of 2,200 in finance, information technology, emergency management and other departments.
His accomplishments include winning voter approval of a $77 million bond measure for emergency communications infrastructure. He also developed employee work groups to focus on capital improvements, along with equity, inclusion and diversity teams.
“There’s a lot of accomplishments in there. But I think my greatest accomplishment, honestly, is just I’ve been a fair and honest broker doing the public’s work and that I love public service,” Bohn said.
“I care. And that’s not something a lot of people talk about, but I seriously care about the employees, I care about the board, I care about the residents. I got into this business to serve.”
He said feels a sense of responsibility to set the bar high and to lead.
He also tries to give people he works with the tools, opportunity, training and leadership to be successful in their jobs so they can handle any situation.
“What I’ve always said is accept quickly. Accept what it is, trust that you’re going to be OK and manage the heck out of it,” Bohn said.
He also reinforces the need for civility in government, because if there’s not, it takes opportunity off the table, he said.
“What I am hopeful for, though, is we don’t lose our civility and we don’t get to a point where we don’t see each other, we see our differences, but not all of our similarities,” Bohn said. “I’m still optimistic. I still feel very good about where we’re generally headed.”