Quality of life became the theme of the evening as the six candidates vying to take over Clatsop Countys top administrative position introduced themselves at a meet-and-greet event Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Express in Astoria.
Coming from as far away as Wisconsin and as near as Reedsport, the finalists for the Clatsop County manager position said they were attracted to the job because of the coastal location and the amenities available to county residents.
I think each of the six candidates has demonstrated they can do the job, said Greg Prothman, the countys hiring consultant who specializes in executive recruitment.
There is no fixed deadline for when the county will make a hiring decision, but Tuesdays meeting represented one of the last stages in a months long process, which began in January when current County Manager Duane Cole announced his retirement effective Thursday.
Oregon-based candidates for the position include Scott Somers, who has served for the last three and a half years as the city manager of Reedsport; and Gene Green, who previously served as the public works director of West Linn and for eight years as the city manager for Molalla. Hes been out of work since February, when West Linn fired him from the public works position.
Prothman sent out 700 recruitment letters last fall, received 40 resumes and interviewed 11 candidates himself, before settling on the six finalists.
The position attracted a number of national candidates, including Tom Mitchell, a former county executive officer for Mendocino and Calaveras counties in California; Michael McNees, the former chief operating officer at USA Track & Field, who prior to that served as the county manager for Blaine County, Idaho; Travis Myren, director of administration for the last three and a half years for Dane County, Wis.; and Jim Payne, who runs a records management business with his wife and was previously the city manager of Rio Rancho, N.M.
The six candidates did not provide specifics on what theyd focus on if they were hired, but each detailed his management philosophy.
I am heavily into economic development, and I have the Oregon experience, Green said.
Green has served as a public administrator in Alaska and Oregon, primarily in Clackamas County, including an eight-year stint as the city manager of Molalla, which ended six years ago.
Hes also faced scrutiny in recent months, however. The city of Molalla is currently grappling with ways to pay back $2.5 million in misspent development fees.
He said he wouldnt comment on the financial problems facing Molalla.
He said every municipality in Oregon is facing a budget crunch right now, adding that Clatsop County is in a better position to weather the storm.
I am familiar with what counties can provide, he said.
McNees, a former college track athlete who was most recently an executive for USA Track & Field, said he had a diversity of experience. The organization recruited McNees from his previous position, as the county manager of Blaine County, Idaho, where he served for two years.
Hes looking for a long-term position, he said.
Ive moved three times in the last five years, McNees said. Im done with moving.
Myren has served his entire public administration career in Dane County, Wis., where for the past three and a half years hes been the director of administration, serving a 37-member board.
Its a good time for me to start exploring new opportunities, Myren said. I thought (Clatsop) county was doing the right thing.
Payne, the former Rio Rancho, N.M., city manager said he believes the county manager should try to anticipate who will be affected by public projects.
Hes learned from past experiences that its a good idea to provide a lengthy public input process before moving forward with infrastructure projects.
You have to consider whos going to be impacted by what youre doing, he said.
Mitchell has been on sabbatical for the last two years. He said he felt it was time to look for work again, especially along the coast where he is familiar with many of the issues. He previously served in two coastal counties in California.
My wife and I decided, after this period of time, wed like to be in the coastal environment again, Mitchell said.
Somers, whos served as the city manager of Reedsport for three and a half years, said hed also like to bolster economic development along the coast. There are challenges facing Oregon counties, he said, including dwindling revenue from timber payments.
He said he would want to focus on invigorating new coastal industries. He added that the question for the county is: How can it make (itself) appealing for that sort of environment?
Next step shortly
With the informal meeting session completed, the interview stage of the hiring process will wrap up today. County manager candidates will spend the day being interviewed by the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners, county department heads and a panel of community members and regional leaders.
County officials say they want as much input as possible to make their decision.
Were looking for specific things from the candidates, but the community might have different needs, said Commissioner Patricia Roberts.
The next county manager will stand to make a salary between $100,000 and $130,000, along with a government benefits package that includes PERS.
A hiring decision could be made as early as today, if theres one strong candidate, Roberts said.