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Land use planning and economic development combined into new community development department

City Economic Development Director and interim Planning Director Chris Kerr can now shorten his title, as the city announced Tuesday that Kerr has shifted into a new “community development director” position.

The move is part of a larger effort to combine the planning and economic development departments into one community development department, according to Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt.


“It became obvious that there was a real connection between economic development and land use planning, so it made sense to make sure to put all of those functions under the same umbrella,” Wyatt said. “Chris Kerr was the obvious choice given he had a background in both of those areas.”

Kerr was originally hired as a senior planner in 2007 and served stints as interim planning director in 2009 and interim assistant city manager in 2012 before later being appointed economic development director that same year. He was named interim planning director for a second time when Planning Director John Sonnen was fired in October 2013.

Now, as community development director, Kerr will be in charge of a department that provides planning, building inspections and economic development services to West Linn. The goal, according to the city, is to “attain greater efficiencies” while avoiding the addition of any new full-time employees.

While Kerr’s new role formally eliminates the planning director position, the city will add a new “planning manager” to run day-to-day planning work.

“The planning manager will work directly with the planning commission,” Wyatt said. “It’s not a planning director and not a senior planner — more of a hybrid.”

City officials are finalizing the planning manager job description, and it will likely be posted within one to two weeks, according to Wyatt.

As for Kerr, the move amounts to a promotion from the grade 11 to grade 10 pay scale, which has a low range of $87,310 and a high range of $118,509 annually.

“West Linn has a strong commitment to smart community development,” Kerr said in a statement. “And this reorganization will strengthen our ability to meet the city council’s goals for West Linn.”

Though largely influenced by the city council’s goals, the move was solely administrative and not mandated by the council, Wyatt said. She also said the decision was not informed by the controversy surrounding the regulatory code streamlining project, formally known as “Cut the Red Tape.”

Kerr has bounced between roles a number of times since 2012, and Wyatt said his versatility is a key asset to the city.

“It’s a real compliment to his skills,” Wyatt said. “When there’s a hole, he’s the one (City Manager) Chris Jordan goes to. There’s a wide range of skills he can bring.”

By Patrick Malee
503-636-1281, ext. 106
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