Molalla's new city manager has been on the job three weeks and says he's loving it.

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Dan Huff, new Molalla City Manager, in his officeWhen asked to describe himself, Molalla’s new city manager Dan Huff said, “I’ve got a good sense of humor.”

That becomes perfectly clear when you walk through his office door.

It’s about the décor.

“My first day of work, I walked into my office and the walls were painted purple with a nice little border with ducks and stuff on it, and a wall of big locked filing cabinets taking up most of the space,” Huff said. “I asked my staff to get the walls painted and the excess furnishings moved out.”

Within two days, the walls of his windowless office were painted beige and left starkly bare. That didn’t last long. His staff said the room looked too antiseptic.

So for fun, Huff and his youngest son hung an inflatable moose head “hunting trophy” over his desk that had once adorned the wall of his son’s bedroom at home. Then as a joke, someone in city hall added a ridiculously small stuffed bass – or maybe it’s a crappie – mounted as a fishing trophy. Then they hung a framed photograph of country singer George Straight on the wall.

Huff cut out a big hot pink mustache from construction paper, stuck it on George Straight’s face and called it good. “I’m not much into country music,” he said.

But he did enjoy the Buckeroo, which he used to attend as a boy while visiting his grandfather in Molalla.

“This was the first time I’ve been to the Buckeroo in 40 years,” he said. “And I still can’t figure out why guys ride bulls.”

Huff, who has two sons, shares his home with his half-blind Jack Russell. Mitch, his youngest son, attends college, but is living with his dad for the summer. Huff’s oldest son, Spencer, lives in Arizona.

Of course, the city manager has a serious side. On the job now for three weeks, he’s spent a good part of that time getting to know the town, the issues and the people who live here, taking in the Buckeroo and riding in the July 4 parade in the front seat of a convertible that had Mayor Debbie Rogge and TEAM Director Jenifer Hood in the back. He also helped install the first brass plaque at the Buckeroo grounds for the Rodeo Walk of Fame.

But last week Huff had a chance to really get down to work. Among other things, he had meetings with the TEAM board of directors, the mayor and city council and the county planning department to discuss economic development for Molalla. He said eventually he will be making some changes to city staff and to how things are done in city hall.

“I’m still getting plugged in,” he said. “I have a different perspective on what’s been going on here, and there are a number of things to deal with — and they’re not all bad. There are some good things that have been done in this city. The council and city staff did some hard but necessary things lately to clean up city finances. Now for the first time in years, the city is in the black.”

Huff, who was director of community development for the city of Sutherlin, a small town in southern Oregon, said Molalla’s economic development will likely be one of his top priorities.

“With my background, I spent a lot of time on economic development working with state and county programs and coordinating with the Oregon Department of Transportation on infrastructure improvement,” he said. “The things we need to work on for starters in Molalla are the city’s comp plan, the EID and the parks master plan.”

But the “number one goal from a clean-up standpoint,” he said, is Molalla’s development code.

“We need to clean that thing up — so if I had to pick one thing to tackle first, it’s that,” he said, picking up the thick black binder and dropping it back on his desk. “This development code is a mess, and cleaning it up will make the city staffs’ lives easier, and from a development and community standpoint, it will make everyone’s’ lives easier.”

Huff credited Molalla Public Works Director Marc Howatt with working with ODOT to bring about a proposed improvement project for Highway 211.

“And I get the benefit of announcing that at city council and eventually working through the design phase,” he said. “Those kinds of projects are what will make working here fun.

“We have to get that first project started on 211, and then maybe it will snowball and make more good things happen,” he said. “There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel now. So that’s a huge thing.”

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