Lake Oswego's HR director fills the job vacated by David Donaldson in April

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - New Assistant City Manager Megan Phelan says her increased  interaction with the community and City Council creates a dynamic work environment.

When Portland native — and new Lake Oswego assistant city manager — Megan Phelan returned to Oregon after college and a stint in the Bay Area, she initially rented an apartment in Lake Oswego.

Her place on First and D streets allowed her to be close to family members who lived in southeast Portland, while still allowing her the room she needed to carve out her own professional niche in human resources.

Phelan has been working for local municipalities since 2002, eventually becoming manager of the human resources department for the city of Wilsonville. Her career brought her back to Lake Oswego in 2009, when she was named human resources director. On June 9, she was named assistant city manager, taking over the management role vacated by David Donaldson in April.

The transition to working in a larger city has been exciting, she said — especially her introduction to working with police and fire services, departments which are contracted out in Wilsonville.

“That was kind of a growth opportunity for me,” Phelan said. “I was not familiar with the inner workings of police and fire operations.”

And, she added, “our Parks and Rec department here, and our library, are a lot more robust.”

Originally, Phelan thought her career would head in an entirely different field: Athletics. The Central Catholic High School grad planned to follow her passion for volleyball with a career as an athletic trainer, and she spent her first two years at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., studying biology. But a particularly engaging organizational behavior professor inspired her to switch majors, and to focus on business management.

“I still finished (school) on time, thank goodness,” Phelan said with a laugh.

She graduated into a flourishing economy, and translated her academic interests into a job as a recruiter for a high-tech firm in San Francisco. She followed that with a four-month stint as a career services coordinator at the University of Alaska Southeast, then headed back to Oregon.

“I had done a lot in the private sector, and I kind of wanted to expand my knowledge and was actually looking for a union,” Phelan said. “I wasn’t particularly set on a city versus a manufacturing (setting), but it worked out that I was hired by the city of Wilsonville.”

After five years as HR director in Lake Oswego, Phelan decided to apply for the assistant city manager job largely because she admired the boss.

“I’m definitely most excited about working with (city manager) Scott Lazenby,” Phelan said. “I see him as a mentor in the area of city management, so that’s exciting for me.”

And yes, she did do her homework by reading “The Human Side of Budgeting: Budget Games & How to End Them,” Lazenby’s book on public management.

“It was a great way to get his perspective on the budgeting process,” she said. “He does a good job in that book of making budgeting (accessible), which I think for a lot of employees is overwhelming.”

Phelan now lives in West Linn with her husband, Larry, and their six-year-old daughter, Brenna. Phelan said much of her leisure time revolves around her recent kindergarten graduate, as well as activities with her extended family, who are all based in the Portland metro area.

“We enjoy hiking, that kind of thing,” Phelan said. “We’re not exactly jetting off to Europe or anything!”

As she’s settled into her new role, Phelan has found that increased community and City Council interaction make for a dynamic work environment.

“It’s really exciting,” she said of her promotion. “And I still interact a lot with (city) employees. That was really important to me.”

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